Here’s a David-and-Goliath story in which Goliath saved David.It involves Cisco (Goliath), a startup called Connectify (David), the website URL “Connectify.com,” and a years-long struggle quickly devolving into a legal battle.
If you type Connectify.com into your browser today, it will take you to Connectify’s website. But for most of the startup’s life, which launched in 2009, it didn’t. It took you nowhere. The name had been owned by another company since the early 2000s and wasn’t being used at all, the startup’s president, Bhana Grover, told Business Insider.While trying to find the owner of the name, Connectify launched its company using a less than ideal website name, “Connectify.me.”
Despite the odd website name, Connectify prospered. It makes a networking product called Connectify Hotspot that lets you turn any Windows computer into a Wi-Fi hotspot to share your internet connection.
It’s been downloaded 65 million times and used for over 500 million hotspots, Grover says. It just launched a second product, Speedify, that lets you combine multiple internet connections together – 3G, 4G, Wi-Fi, satellite – for super speed.Still, it’s sort of embarrassing for an internet company not to have its website name. When Connectify execs tracked down the owners of the website, they negotiated a price.
“But when we transferred the money to escrow, they backed out. So we eventually decided to file complaint with ICANN,” Grover tells us.ICANN is the organization that controls website names. If you have a legitimate right to use a website name, like a registered trademark, you might have legal rights to the name, even if someone else owns it. Cybersquatting, or owning a website that uses someone else’s trademark and trying to extort money for the name, is illegal.
Cisco CEO John Chambers
After the complaint was filed with ICANN, the website owner came back to Connectify, asking for more money.”Then, out of left field, our lawyers received a letter from Cisco’s lawyers saying that they would transfer the domain to us,” Grover says.It turns out, the people who owned the website name sold their company to Cisco eons ago. Somehow, this dispute came to Cisco’s attention and Cisco made it clear that it was the legal owner of the website name.It immediately handed the name over to Connectify, free of charge.
Alex Gizis CEO of Connectify
This is doubly cool because Connectify is a relatively tiny player in the world of networking where Cisco dominates. Connectify’s CEO Alex Gizis was so thrilled that he wrote a public thank you post to Cisco and called Cisco the “hero” of the story. He then offered a free year of its hotspot service to all of Cisco’s 75,000 employees.That’s nice, and ironic. Cisco is the world’s largest maker of hotspot Wi-Fi equipment and the equipment that runs the internet.