Since its creation, the Internet has been home to cyber-squatters of every shade. The predatory practice has been around since the early 1990s and continues to plague businesses looking to secure online marketing space. In recent years, regulatory agencies and domain providers have put a serious crackdown on this kind of bottom-feeding behavior, but in some cases, litigation may be required.
My Site Has Been Squatted – What Can I Do?
First, know that there are options available to you through a number of channels.
A typical first step against a cyber-squatter may be a cease and desist letter. Often times cyber squatters will offer to turn over a domain name immediately if they receive a cease and desist letter from a law firm that they know litigates these types of cases. Some also legitimate domain names and they do not want to create a reputation online as a cyber squatter. This can happen if a lawsuit if filed. Other simply know that fighting against a law firm is a losing cause that will only cost them time and money. With millions of other domain names available to cyber squat, they can simply move on to the next victim.
The Internet Corporation of Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) is the governing online body and is responsible for domain name assignment. If you suspect your domain name has been cyber-squatted, you may file for arbitration with ICANN by way of the Uniform Dispute Resolution Process (UDRP). To have the domain name transferred, you must prove that the domain name is confusingly similar to your own trademark, and that it was registered and is being held in bad faith by someone who lacks trademark rights. Evidence that a cyber squatter is demanding an outrageous price for transfer of a domain name can help prove your case. This cost to initiate a UDRP proceeding is higher than filing a lawsuit, but if you have a winning case and expect that the other side will put up a fight this can be your best option.
In 1999, the Anti-Cyber-Squatting Consumer Protection Act (ACPA) was created. Through this act, relevant trademark holders can take a domain name cyber squatter to court. Like arbitration through ICAAN, businesses must prove that the URL was purchased in bad faith and the present owner has no trademark rights. There is more downside for a cyber squatter when a lawsuit has been filed against them because in additional to possibly losing the domain name at issue, they are also potentially liable for damages.
Internet Law Counsel
Cyber-squatting is one of many online annoyances that business owners must face and be mindful of on a consistent basis. We have years of experience in dealing with these types of issues and so we know the most cost-effective manner to deal with infringers.
If you have an issue with a domain name infringement, please feel free to contact us.