Tim Lince

A website owned by a company related to notorious trademark filer Michael Gleissner has been found imitating the EU Intellectual Property Office’s search platform TMview. The site has been described as a “phishing page” by one attorney, but an insider source tells World Trademark Review it is more likely that the entertainment tycoon is looking to sell or license the domain to the EUIPO.

The copycat website, located at ‘tmview.com’, was identified by IP lawyer John Berryhill earlier this week but is understood to have been operating for over a year. The site looks identical at first glance to the EUIPO’s multinational trademark search database TMview, which is hosted on the office’s European Trademark and Design Network (TMDN) website. But a closer inspection reveals that it is copy of an earlier version of the site, with fewer office databases listed and the news sidebar showing posts from 2015. As Berryhill observed, when a term is keyed into the search bar, the site “records your search and then falls over to the actual TMDN page”. As such, he believes the site is “a phishing page copied from the EUIPO to fool IP lawyers doing preliminary clearance searches”. The website appears to have fooled some parties; the law firms Levine Samuel LLP and Halfords IP list the copycat site on their links page, and it is included on the ‘digital library’ of the IP Paralegal Institute.

According to WHOIS information, ‘tmview.com’ is owned by the “Institute of Advanced Networking Technologies” with a contact email address listed as “domains@corp.bigfoot.com”. That email is associated with over 9,000 domain names and is used by entities related to Bigfoot Entertainment, a media company owned by entrepreneur Michael Gleissner. That name may be familiar to regular readers of this website; we previously conducted an investigation into the mysterious trademark filing activities of Gleissner, which uncovered thousands of trademark applications, company names and domains from around the world. While our original reporting into the matter was in August last year, recent coverage has demonstrated how Gleissner’s vast trademark portfolio continues to grow – with an insider claiming that the business strategy could be related to the ‘farming of brands’.

As part of our original investigation, we noted that Gleissner had filed a trademark application in Portugal for the term EUIPO and also registered a company name in the UK called EUIPO INTERNATIONAL LIMITED. It has since been discovered that an application for the term TMVIEW was filed in the Philippines in 2014, with the representative address on that application listed as a property owned by Bigfoot (the application was subsequently refused).

It appears, then, that Gleissner has sought trademarks related to the EUIPO in the past, so the discovery of a domain related to the office comes as little surprise. But the fact that the site is operational, and actually imitating the TMview platform is a new twist; our past research suggested Bigfoot domains mostly use static parked pages, such as this one that promotes Gleissner’s enterprise Fashion One. It is also a move that the EUIPO will want to scrutinise, especially with the evidence that the copycat site is being linked to by various IP law firms. Following an enquiry, a spokesperson for the office told World Trademark Review: “The EUIPO maintains a policy of constant vigilance of all such websites, and is committed to taking all necessary measures to protect our users.”

For now, the purpose of the site remains a mystery. Berryhill believes that it is a phishing site to record trademark searches, possibly in an effort to direct Gleissner’s own sizeable portfolio. However, a source with knowledge of Gleissner’s businesses refuted this. Talking to World Trademark Review, the source (who preferred to remain anonymous) claims Gleissner “is not a market researcher” and would not “spy on people”, but instead will be looking at the domain as an investment (Gleissner appears to have purchased ‘tmview.com’ in May 2015 for $4,000). The source expanded: “Gleissner buys an asset when it is empty and sells it when it's got some sort of value. If he owns ‘tmview.com’, it is probably because he's trying to add value to it by getting traffic/monetizing the views on that page – not much more. Also, once this is done he would probably sell that domain to a bidder; if the EUIPO offered an acceptable amount, he would at least license the domain to them. I say license because Gleissner's belief is to play in an owner's market rather than a seller's market.”

For its part, Bigfoot has told us in the past that “it is company and firm policy not to comment” on administrative or legal proceedings “nor the strategy involved therein”. Nonetheless, it is difficult to imagine the EUIPO agreeing to license a domain name from a third party. But without registered rights in the TMview name, questions will arise over what effective actions the office can take now that it is faced with tackling a copycat site. 

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