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Makers of Splenda® buy Hundreds of Negative Domain Names

splendakills.com, victimsofsplenda.com, splendatoxicity.com are all domain names owned by the makers of Splenda – see below for extensive list

Image is everything today, if you don’t believe that statement, just look at the lengths the companies who produce the artificial sweetener Splenda® are going to control potentially negative information on their product.  Tate & Lyle, manufacturer of Splenda®, along with its US based co-developer Johnson & Johnson have bought up potentially negative domain names by the hundreds.  The three top level .com domain names mentioned above sound like something out of a medical examiners post mortem but they are actually domain names owned by the sweeteners own makers.  Why?

Realizing how times have changed and how now a simple Google search can yield consumers a wealth of information on a particular product both good and bad it appears Tate & Lyle and Johnson & Johnson are taking steps to control potentially negative information by buying domain names that could be used to post such information.  Is it brilliant corporate strategy or a plan that could backfire tremendously down the road? Are the makers of Splenda® outwitting potential critics, or are they themselves documenting their own products’ shortcomings and risks by buying these domain names?

Splenda® is the commercial name for sucralose, which was discovered in 1976 by scientists from Tate & Lyle working with researchers from King’s College in London.  In 1980 Tate & Lyle joined forces with Johnson & Johnson to develop the product for commercial consumption under the name Splenda®.  The two companies formed a new company McNeil Nutritionals to produce Splenda® under.

Splenda’s motto is “made from sugar… so it tastes like sugar” however its chemical structure is different than sugar.  It is made by the selective chlorination of sucrose, by which three of sucrose’s hydroxyl groups are substituted with chlorine atoms to produce the compound, 1,6 dichloro-1,6-dideoxy-β-D-fructo-furanosyl4-chloro-4-deoxy-α-D-galactopyranoside – otherwise known as Splenda®.  Wikipedia reports sucralose is 320-1000 times as sweet as sucrose and unlike other artificial sweeteners it is stable under heat making it usable in baking and also meaning it has a longer shelf life.

Splenda® was first approved for use in Canada in 1991, it is also approved and sold in Australia (1993), New Zealand (1996), US (1998) and the EU (2004).   It is approved and sold in over 60 countries.

The artificial sweetener is at the center of a heated debate in the United States and the EU as its popularity rises, over its slogan “made from sugar…so it tastes like sugar,” and unknown and/or potentially harmful health issues associated with it.  Many large food companies in the United States and abroad have rolled out “sugar free” lines of products featuring Splenda.  In fact, today Splenda® is found in more than 4,500 food and beverage products.

The January 2007 issue of the Ecologist ran a small blurb reporting Tate & Lyle and Johnson & Johnson have bought nearly 300 domain names and listed a handful of them.  The blurb suggested the companies were concerned about negative publicity from earlier reports in their own publication as well as a number of others.   Sustainable Is Good took the lead and ran with it, and the result is an interesting look into the often highly secret corporate PR/marketing process which rarely leaves meetings and internal company discussions.  Using public internet domain registration records and actual active URL’s the information showed that Tate & Lyle and Johnson & Johnson developed a two prong approach towards dealing with negative domain names.  The companies then embarked on an aggressive domain name buying spree.  We can verify ownership of at least 211 negative domain names owned between the two companies relating to Splenda®.

Here is a breakdown of the strategies used by the companies:

Strategy 1 – reactive domain purchasing: Identify currently active negative websites dealing with Splenda and then buy up all associated remaining domain names.  For instance they looked at Dr. Janet Hull’s website www.splendaexposed.com and then bought up splendaexposed.net, .org, .biz, and .info.

Strategy 2 – forecasting potential future domains: Here is where the process gets really interesting.  It appears the companies had a brainstorming session of sorts to attempt to forecast what domain names people might buy in the future related to Splenda® and then in turn bought all the domain names related to their forecasted domain name.  The resulting domain names the companies determined must be purchased are shocking.  For instance splendavictims.com, .net, .org, .biz, .info or splendatoxicity.com, .net, .org, .biz, .info. or suralosepoison.com, .net, .org, .biz, .info.

Following these two strategies Tate & Lyle and Johnson & Johnson own the following domain names:

Johnson & Johnson owns:

splendasucks.net, .org, .biz, .info
splendakills.net, .org, biz .info
splendatruth.com , .net, .org, .biz, .info
splendapoison.com, .net, .org, .biz, .info
thedangersofsplenda.com, .net, .org, .biz, .info
thefactsaboutsplenda.com, .net, .org, .biz, .info
thesplendadangers.com, .net, .org, .biz, .info
thesplendafacts.com, .net, .org, .biz, .info
victimsofsplenda.com, .net, .org, .biz, .info
thetruthaboutsplenda.net, .org, .biz, .info
thesplendatruth.com, .net, .org, ,biz, .info
splendatoxicity.com, .net, .org, .biz, .info
splendatoxicitycenter.com, .net, .org, .biz, .info
splendavictims.com, .net, .org, .biz, .info
splendahealth.com
splendaandyourhealth.com, .net, .org, .biz, .info
splendaandyourfamily.com, .net, .org, .info, .biz
splendamyths.com, .net, .org, .biz, .info
splendaalert.com, .net, .org, .biz, .info
splendafacts.com, .net, .org, .biz, .info
splendasafety.com, .net, .org, .biz, .info
truthaboutsplenda.info, .biz
splendasideeffects.com, .net, .org, .biz, .info
aboutsplenda.com
allaboutsplenda.net
banonsplenda.com
bittertruthaboutsplenda.com, .net, .org, .biz, .info
factsaboutsplenda.com, .net, .org, .biz, .info
mythsaboutsplenda.com, .net, .org, .biz, .info
officialsplendasite.com, .net, .org, .biz, .info
splendadangers.com, .net, .org, .biz, .info
splendadiabetes.com
splendaisnotsafe.com, .net, .org, .biz, .info
splendaisnotsosweet.com, .net, .org, .biz, .info
splendasucralose.com
thetruthaboutsplendasafety.com, .net, .org, .biz, .info

Tate & Lyle owns:

sucralosepoison, com, .net, .info, .org, .biz, .us
sucralosekills.com, net, .info, .org, .biz, .us
sucralosesucks.com, .net, .info,.org, .biz, .us
sucraloseandyourhealth.com , .net, .org, .biz, .info, .us
sucralosesafety.com , .net, .org, .biz, .info, .us
sucralosefacts.com, .net, .org, biz, .info, .us
sucralosetruth.com, .net, .org, .biz, .info, .us
truthaboutsucralose.com, .net, .org, .biz, .info, .us
chlorosucralose.com, .net, .org, .biz, .info, .us
sucraloseandyourhealth.com, .net, .org, .biz, .info, .us

Judging by the domain names Johnson & Johnson and Tate & Lyle own it’s very clear they are concerned about people targeting targeting Splenda® itself, or its main ingredient sucralose.   The mere fact a major corporation and maker of a product has bought and owns domain names with their product name and the words “poison,” “kills,” and “sucks,” and “victims” is amazing.  Under what possible scenario does Johnson & Johnson envision that someone would create the website “victimsofsplenda.com”   This domain name and many others seem to go way beyond a company protecting its trademarks or copyright – these domain names imply a very sobering negative fear on the parts of Johnson & Johnson and Tate & Lyle.

Further research shows that reactive and forecast domain name purchasing wasn’t the only strategy the Splenda® makers had.  They are also going after people registering domain names using the name Splenda in it.  A pubic records search of the National Arbitration Forum, the body that hears domain name disputes in the United States for ICANN, shows McNeil Nutritionals (maker of Splenda®) has filed three recent domain name disputes.  The three disputes the company filed each resulted in the domain name in question being ordered transferred to McNeil.

McNeil Nutritionals, LLC v. Troy Ellison domains in question sweetenedwithsplenda.com & madewithsplenda.com were ordered transferred to McNeil on 10/3/06

McNeil Nutritionals , LLC v. Steven Odinetz domain in question liquidsplenda.com ordered transferred 10/6/06

McNeil Nutritionals, LLC v. {registrant} domain in question splendakills.com ordered transferred 10/20/06

The mere fact a major company owns domain names associated with its star product that include the words, “kills,” “victims,” “toxicity,” “dangers,” “not so safe,” “sucks,” and many others is rather alarming.  Thinking back over the last ten years its difficult not to wonder what would have happened if the Internet in this fashion was a major factor in the tobacco lawsuits. Many of the tobacco cases coming forward relied heavily on the emergence of internal documents that showed companies new their products were harmful.  Suppose the Internet as we know it today was in existence in the late 1950s and 1960s and tobacco companies preemptively bought domain names like www.tobaccokills.com or www.tobaccovictims.com knowing what they knew about their products and anticipating a problem in the future.

It’s hard not to wonder – buying a handful of top level domain names to protect a company name or trademark seems reasonable but buying over 200 possibly as high as 300 negative domain names related to a product seems over the top.  Is there something these companies know about Splenda® that make them feel the need to buy all these domain names before someone else can?  Who would ever imagine a website www.victimsofsplenda.com – honestly?  Well apparently someone at Johnson & Johnson did because they now own the domain along with a host of others.

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