Over the past few years, the number of websites has grown exponentially. Internet dispersion around the world continues to increase and technologies like mobile web, etc., have made the internet a part of everyday life. Businesses have come to realize the marketing power of the medium and online marketing has emerged among the fastest growing industries ever.
Today, the value of a brand in the online medium is as important as it has ever been in the real world. This has led to opportunists trying to capitalize on the value of brands online through various ethical and unethical techniques. Cyber squatting is just one of the ways people have tried to cash in on the value of brands.
The US federal law defines cyber squatting in the Anti-Cybersquatting Consumer Protection Act as “registering, trafficking in, or using a domain name with bad-faith intent to profit from the goodwill of a trademark belonging to someone else.”
Cyber squatting or is the act of wrongfully registering, owning or transacting on a domain name that uses the brand name that belongs to someone else.
How does cyber squatting work?
When you register a domain name, the domain registrar assumes that you own the rights to register the domain name. This has resulted in individuals and companies registering domain names that are someone else’s brand names in the hope that the true owners of these brand names will, sooner or later, want to own these domain names and be willing to pay a high price for the ownership of the domain names.
Many cyber squatters are constantly on the lookout for expiring or expired domain names. When a domain name expires, cyber squatters register it hoping that the original registrant will want to pay a good price for reclaiming the domain name they inadvertently allowed to expire.
Prevention of cyber squatting
If a trademark has been registered by the original owner, trademark laws can provide some protection against cyber squatting. While regular court systems can used, defining the jurisdiction for resolution of a cyber squatting dispute can be a deterrent. Determining the proper location for a trial can be disputed – should it be that of the plaintiff, the defendant, or the location of the server through which the name is registered. As such, owners of many brands find it faster and less expensive to pay the cyber squatter than to dispute the ownership of the domain name.
The United Nations copyright agency called WIPO (World Intellectual Property Organization) has internationally provided for a trademark holder to reclaim a squatted domain name.
The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), which licenses domain name registrars, has created the Uniform Dispute Resolution Process (UDRP), but courts can overrule UDRP decisions, and there have been many instances where UDRP decisions have actually been overruled by courts. However, world over, there is a growing recognition about trademark ownerships and the menace of cyber squatting and over 80% of the cases against cyber squatting get resolved in favor of the complaining party.
With growing awareness about its menace, cyber squatting is becoming increasingly less rewarding than it used to be. It is blatantly a violation of Intellectual Property Rights and a wrongful ownership of someone else’s property. Although it is becoming less, it still continues to plague businesses from around the world. The only way to protect yourself against cyber squatting is to make sure you own your brand, register the trademark and register most common top level domain names for your brand name. If you do not allow cyber squatters to wrongfully own your brand, there will be no need to fight cyber squatting.