Read about how cybersquatting affects domain names and what steps you need to take to dispute any false claims made against you.
No one ever wants to be accused of something they didn’t do, and this is especially true when it comes to brand identity. With so many domain names already registered throughout the internet, how can you make sure that you stay safe from claims that you are “cybersquatting”?
First off, what does cybersquatting mean?
Cybersquatting is the practice of registering domain names that are closely related to well-known companies with the intention of reselling them at a profit. This can be detrimental to a brand’s identity considering the importance of an online presence.
We’ll take our sister company Midphase.com to show an example. Midphase is a trademarked name, meaning no other person or company can use it to build their own brand. If someone were to register midphase.com, then hold on to it and offer to sell it at a hefty price, they would be cybersquatting.
Of course, Midphase secured its domain name long before any cybersquatting could occur, which is best practice to avoid any kind of conflict.
Who monitors these types of conflicts?
The Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP) is an ICANN-established process that was put into place in order to settle any disputes over domain names and cybersquatting. The UDRP determines when a company’s brand name is being abused through the purchasing of domain names.
Many domain name abuse cases are difficult to solve considering the different but closely related websites currently on the internet. Although one person claims that another is trying to destroy their brand, the other side may form a counter argument that they’re just trying to find a domain that will work for them.
UDRP has been accepted by every single gTLD registrar. This means that every time someone registers a domain name they agree to the UDRP terms set by ICANN. In other words, they state that they will not use the domain name to abuse any other company. When these terms are violated, the UDRP comes into effect and official arbitration occurs.
What do I do if someone claims I am cybersquatting?
Quite often, people make false claims that another person or company has registered a domain name that infringes on trademark or reserved rights. However, a newly-registered domain name that sounds similar to an existing domain name doesn’t necessarily mean someone is cybersquatting.
John Berryhill, a domain name attorney, sat down with Andrew Allemann from Domain Name Wire to solve some of the misconceptions commonly seen with UDRP disputes. Click here to listen to the full podcast.
Berryhill explains in detail the three necessary steps someone has to take to form a successful cybersquatting claim:
- Domain names cannot be identical or confusingly similar to a trademark or service mark in which the complainant has rights.
- Domains cannot be registered to persons who have no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the domain name.
- Domains cannot be registered and be used in bad faith.
If someone violates these three guidelines, he or she is likely to be found guilty. However, as straightforward as that may sound, it’s actually quite difficult for someone to violate all three of these claims.
In the podcast, Berryhill used the example of Monster Energy Drink. Even though the company’s name is Monster, this doesn’t necessarily mean that anyone who wants to register a ‘monster’ domain name is infringing on copyright laws. Monsterenergy.com belongs to the famous energy drink. Monster.com belongs to the job listing search engine. And monsterjam.com is a site dedicated to a famous monster truck tour. Although all three of these domains contain the same word, none of them is using the domain in ‘bad faith’.
If someone claims that you are committing domain name abuse, take a look at the three steps above to figure out whether or not they could make a legitimate claim. You can use these to defend yourself should your case ever reach court.
What if someone is cybersquatting on my domain name?
If you feel that someone has committed domain name abuse against you, read the full policy from UDRP. If you believe that you have a legitimate case, follow the steps given by WIPO.int to take legal action.
Although some cases are unpreventable, consider how you can protect your brand identity from the start. By taking care to build an original brand DNA and register your domains early on you may be able to prevent cybersquatting before it even begins.