Cybersquatting: What are my options?

Cybersquatting

What is Cybersquatting?

Cybersquatting refers to “the illegal activity of buying and officially recording an address on the internet [domain name] that is the name of an existing company or a well-known person, with the intention of selling it to the owner in order to make money.” Oxford Dictionary

If you own a trademark or have been using your mark in commerce building value behind your brand and someone else is holding a domain name hostage until you pay them a large sum of money for it you just might be a victim of cybersquatting. If this happens to you and your business, you do have a few options which we will discuss below. 

First you will need to determine if you are a victim of cybersquatting which requires you to check to see if the domain name takes you to an actual website. If the website takes you the standard site that says “under construction” or “domain for sale” then you may be dealing with a cybersquatter. 

In addition, if you know of the individual or company that is in the same business as you are and they have tied up all the domain names listed for your company and/or product offerings then you are a victim of cybersquatting. Before doing anything reach out to the domain name holder or research the owner and see what products and services they are providing. If the company competes with your products or services you are a victim of cybersquatting and may also have a case for trademark infringement.  

How to Fight Cybersquatting

In the United States a victim of cybersquatting has a few different options to battle cybersquatting. 

  1. You can sue under the provisions of Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act (ACPA); 
  2. Sue for trademark infringement using the Lanham Act if they are infringing your mark; or 
  3. Use The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers “ICANN” whose role its to “oversee the huge and complex interconnected network of unique identifiers that allow computers on the internet to find one another.

ACPA

The Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act authorizes the trademark owner to sue in Federal Court for trademark infringement and is there to help prevent cyberpiracy. In Section 43 of the trademark Act of 1946 states that “any person, who, with bad-faith intent to profit from the goodwill of a trademark service mark of another, registers, traffics in, or uses a domain name that is identical to, confusional similar to, or dilutive of such trademark or services work, without regard to the goods or services of the parties, shall be liable in a civil action by the owner of the mark, if the mark is distinctive at the time of the registration of the domain name.”  
 
 

ICANN

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (“ICANN”) can help you resolve any cybersquatting disputes under its Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy . You can  seek a ruling that the Domain Name should be transferred to over to your business because you have the right to that domain. The Policy can be found at https://www.icann.org/resources/pages/help/dndr/udrp-en