Protecting Germans I: The Problem

Recently the German government, along with the governments of several other countries, recommended (link in German) moving away from IE to “an alternative browser”, due to some well-publicized IE security flaws. Blog of Metrics has shown us the effect this recommendation has had on downloads of the German localized version of Firefox – 300,000 extra copies in one weekend.

Unfortunately, we strongly suspect not all Germans will be getting the real deal. Germany is a place where Mozilla has a particular problem with trademark infringement of various types. The most typical of these are:

  • infringing domain name registrations (e.g. typo domains such as “morzilla.de”, “firfox.de”)
  • misleading online content (people pretending to be the official Mozilla download site)
  • offers of modified versions of Mozilla‚Äôs software, e.g. with a changed toolbar, or containing malware
  • “subscription traps” – where something which seems free actually ends up costing you

I’ve written about subscription traps in the past. These are fraudulent websites which lead users to believe that they are obtaining a typical free download of Firefox or Thunderbird. Only the small print mentions that by registering for the download, the user undertakes a contractual obligation to pay up to £95 (€105; US$150) per year.

This sucks.

Over the next few days I’m going to be blogging about what Mozilla is actively doing to use our trademarks to protect Germans, and residents of other countries as well, from being ripped off in this way.

My thanks to Anthonia Zimmermann of Lovells for her help in preparing this series of blog posts.

4 thoughts on “Protecting Germans I: The Problem

  1. It’s really unfortunate that there is so litte feedback from Mozilla Legal. I have personally reported so many sites through this web form: http://www.mozilla.com/en-US/legal/fraud-report/index.html
    but if that has ever worked, I can’t remember. There is a bug since 2008 (https://bugzilla.mozilla.org/show_bug.cgi?id=467014) for http://www.firefox.de , imagine that. It should be so easy to get that domain back in Germany, but it’s still only offering Firefox+Yahoo-Toolbar (if you use Windows). At least it’s not malware (or I hope it’s not).

    It is so incredibly frustrating to read email from users who have been tricked into downloading something they didn’t want. As my mail address is on all of our websites I get to read at least some of the complaints, but of course a huge portion of our users never find their way to our website and I can’t help them or at least refer them to to the right institutions.

    I’m eager to learn what Mozilla is doing in that regard.