High Priestess “cybersquats” on local competition
Sugar Candy Tattoo and Piercing was started in Roseburg by Lowell and Sharri Buehner. The company had their grand opening July 13, 2012. The mission of Sugar Candy is “to provide the community with unique, alternative, and affordable clothing” and “to provide you with unique body art in a safe and comfortable family friendly atmosphere.” Sugar Candy’s tattoo artist and piercer are both fully licensed by the Oregon Health Licensing Agency and the company provides high grade 316L surgical steel and anodized titanium jewelry.
The next step for Sugar Candy would be to make a website. But on July 16, 2012, someone had already purchased the web site www.sugarcandytattoo.com. GoDaddy.com, an internet domain registrar and web hosting company, has a database to provide the public with a means of obtaining information about domain name registration records. Their WHOIS database lists the registrant of sugarcandytattoo.com as Eugene-based High Priestess Piercing.
High Priestess, while based in Eugene, has the only other shop in the Douglas County area that offers legal piercing. According to the database, High Priestess registered the Sugar Candy website through GoDaddy.com a mere three days after Sugar Candy’s grand opening. On July 16 the Eugene company bought the 2-year contract expiring the same day in 2014. Benjamin Overton, co-owner and general manager of High Priestess’ six Oregon locations, is listed as the administrative contact for the registration.
When a user goes to sugarcandytattoo.com, the user is immediately redirected to highpriestess.com. But there is more: High Priestess bought the domain sugarcandypiercing.com on July 16 as well. So when a user goes to sugarcandypiercing.com, it also redirects you to highpriestess.com.
In the business world, this tactic is commonly known as “cybersquatting.” According to Nolo Law,
“Cybersquatting is registering, selling or using a domain name with the intent of profiting from the goodwill of someone else’s trademark. It generally refers to the practice of buying up domain names that use the names of existing businesses with the intent to sell the names for a profit to those businesses.”
Benjamin Overton says that this practice is just good business. He says it is also a common practice — the intent being to increase a company’s visibility on search engines. Overton says,
“People type in the wrong url and it takes people to our website. If you understand the way the the internet works, this makes sense. It increases our visibility with Google analytics.”
It is unknown whether Sugar Candy wants to buy the domain from High Priestess or if High Priestess intends to sell the domains to Sugar Candy Tattoo at a profit, But Overton says his company is more than willing to negotiate:
“If anyone wants to purchase any domain from us they are welcome to contact us.”
For now, the phrase “cybersquatting” seems to fit, at least in the minds of local residents. A picture of the WhoIs registration page has been circulating on Facebook the last few days. Captions and comments have ranged from “Local High Priestess Piercing decides to cyber-squat their competition” to “What they’re doing is cyber squatting and it’s illegal.”
The illegal part is not true. To be illegal cybersquatting, High Priestess would need to be infringing on a business name trademark. Ultimately, the question is whether High Priestess’s tactics will backfire. And it seems to be doing just that. Kristin, a current student at the University of Oregon, said that High Priestess’ tactic — she called it “messed up” — might have cost them her business. Kristin said,
“I was planning on getting my next tattoo from them but now I might change my mind.”
In today’s social media-dominated world, even local business tactics will not go unnoticed for long. In this case, one picture on Facebook can go viral and cause a public relations dilemma. As Eugene resident Crystal said on Facebook,
“Bad business practices are not going to go un-noticed. A new shop opened up, and High Priestess decided it would be better to buy out the competition’s domain name? Shame on them. [You] can’t be sneaky anymore — people have power.”
This is not the first time that High Priestess has gone after a competitor’s domain name. A Springfield tattoo parlour, Memento Ink, for example, has had the same problem, but with a twist. Memento’s website is www.mementoink.com. But if you misspell the name as momentoink.com, the url will redirect you to High Priestess.
Norman, owner of Memento Ink, commented on the situation:
“If customers are looking for us, and see that [other website], it just drives a wedge even further into High Priestess and their business. We get clientele and they come to us because we have a different attitude than [High Priestess].”
According to Overton, High Priestess is not being sneaky. Rather, they are teaching Sugar Candy a basic business lesson. Overton says,
“For them to open a business and have it opened over a month without registering a url is a pretty juvenile mistake. It speaks volumes about where they are professionally.”
A representative from Sugar Candy could not be reached for comment by the time of publication.