• United States

A possible antidote to spoofing

Jun 03, 20042 mins
Enterprise ApplicationsMessaging Apps

* Group suggests trademark law could be defense against e-mail spoofing

I’ve been sending e-mail promising perfect health, low interest rates for people with bad credit and weight loss while you sleep. Well, not really. Actually, spammers have been sending a huge number of e-mail messages supposedly from

Just in case you have received a message from Osterman Research advertising bigger body parts or a well-known blue pill, please be assured that it’s not from me.

The consequence of spoofed e-mail can be severe. Other than damaging your reputation among recipients who don’t know better, spoofed e-mail could get your domain added to a blacklist or worse. So what do you do about messages that are supposedly from you but aren’t? One option might be to use existing trademark law to protect your domain.

According to Aunty Spam, a Web site run by the Institute for Spam and Internet Public Policy (ISIPP), trademark law is one of the best avenues for prosecuting spammers who misappropriate a domain name. As long as the domain is a registered trademark, ISIPP believes that spoofing and phishing constitute trademark infringement and so can be prosecuted under the well-established laws that protect trademarks.

There are three advantages to prosecuting spoofers and phishers on violations of trademark. First, unlike anti-spam laws, trademark laws are well established and have been tested time and again in the courts. Second, infringement of trademarks has proven to be quite successful in stopping spammers quickly – according to Aunty Spam, a court will often issue an injunction within 24 to 48 hours of a lawsuit being filed. Third, and perhaps most importantly, trademark infringement lawsuits cast a wide net: the owners of the affiliate program that is being advertised via spam, ISPs whose facilities are used to deliver the message and others involved in the spoofing or phishing can be held legally accountable. Not that I want innocent parties like ISPs to be held accountable for e-mail spoofing, but trademark law makes it much easier to find those directly involved in the spamming activity than do anti-spam laws.

To date, there are no known lawsuits against spammers, spoofers or phishers based on trademark law. However, given the potential damage to my reputation, as well as to the reputations of the thousands of companies each day whose domains are spoofed, I look forward to hearing about a few of these cases in the near future.