Cybersquatting And Domain Name Hijacking
What You Need To Know Before You Register
You’ve heard the terms ‘cybersquatting’ and ‘domain name hijacking’ before, but what do they mean exactly? Is it something you should be worried about when it comes to your brand in the cheap hosting comparison process? Let’s take a look at these issues so that you can protect your business before you become a victim.
Cybersquatting is when someone registers a domain name using someone else’s trademark in the hopes of selling it to the trademark owner to gain a profit. Back when the Internet was new, it was more common a practice. Companies didn’t realize the full potential of having a website, and some people decided they’d buy the name of that trademark or brand with intentions to sell it to them when the time was right when signing up for a cheap hosting plan.
Fast forward to today: a cybersquatter can be sued thanks to the Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act (ACPA), and can additionally rely on an international arbitration system put in place by the Internet Corporation of Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) to protect their brand.
What, exactly, does the ACPA define cybersquatting as? The registering, trafficking in, or using a domain name with the sole purpose of making a profit off of the trademark owner. ICANN’s arbitration is a good starting point for small businesses affected by cybersquatting, mainly because it’s cheaper than a lawsuit. You don’t need an attorney to go through ICANN arbitration.
I Need To File A Lawsuit. What Do I Need To Know?
If you must file a lawsuit against a cybersquatter, you’ll need to prove a few things:
- The person registering the domain name did so in bad faith, with intent to make a profit.
- The trademark was owned by you prior to the registering of the domain name.
- The domain name is either identical to the trademark, or so similar it may cause user confusion.
- The trademark is protected by federal law (in other words, you own the trademark and it is distinctive to your business, you were the first one to use it.)
In regards to the second bullet point, a domain name so similar to that of your trademark it causes confusion: that’s typosquatting. The domain name is chosen when selecting a cheap hosting plan to cause intentional confusion, and is often accompanied by some type of advertising scheme. An example: in 2006, domain names were purchased such as lnadsend.com and landswnd.com, misspellings of landsend.com. Users would then be redirected to the real Land’s End site, and the owner of the misspelled domains then charged Land’s End, claiming they were referrals under the company’s affiliate program. Although the typosquatter did have a legitimate site that was signed up under their affiliate program, the act of setting up these misleading domains was wrong, landing them in court.
ICANN has a dispute resolution procedure in place for those who believe their domain name has been hijacked, called the Uniform Dispute Resolution Procedure (UDRP). This arbitration procedure can take up to 60 days to resolve, much quicker than any court decision. Results obtained through this arbitration are non-binding, so that means you might end up in court regardless of the decision that is reached through the process. That means that as the trademark owner, even if you win, the other party can take you to court if they don’t agree with ICANN’s decision. Historically, it appears the deck is stacked in the favor of the trademark owner when it comes to this arbitration procedure.
To bring a case forward for arbitration, you need to be sure these three factors exist:
- The domain name is the same, or similar enough to cause confusion, as the trademark.
- The party who owns the domain name has no rights to do so.
- The domain name was registered in bad faith.
To determine bad faith, ICANN looks for the following:
- Did the owner of the domain name register the name simply to gain a profit that exceeds the actual price for that domain?
- Did the owner of the domain purchase it in order to keep the trademark owner from being able to use it?
- Did the owner of the domain name intend to disrupt the business conducted by the trademark owner, who happens to be a competitor?
- Did the owner of the domain name attempt to confuse users, and make them think they were at the trademarked company’s actual website in order to make a profit?
I hope this information is useful to you, whether you are a business dealing with a cybersquatter or someone looking to register a domain. You don’t want to end up being accused of cybersquatting, so be careful of the domain name you choose after doing your cheap hosting comparison!
Has your company been victim to a cybersquatter?