Cybersquatting

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Recommendation: Avoid
Avoid.jpg
Summary: Trademark infringement using domain names
Outcome: Extortion, user confusion
Addressed by ICANN Policy: Y
Addressed by Legislation: Y
Related to: Typosquatting

Cybersquatting is the act of registering a domain name that is similar to or the same as a well-known brand, company, or trademark for the purpose of reselling the domain name back to the company for a higher price.[1][2] This practice is similar to that of Typosquatting. Additionally, it is important to note that registering a domain name that is similar to or the same as another brand is not cybersquatting if the registrant has a legitimate reason for registering the name, registered the domain name before the trademark was in use, and is using the name in good faith.

Public Perception

Cybersquatting can represent a significant loss to companies if they are forced to pay an excessive rate for a domain name relating to their brand. It can also create user confusion if they type in a familiar name and find a completely different site or company.

Outcome

This practice increases confusion and creates the impression of gaining through dishonest means.

Historical Use

Cybersquatting originated in the late 1990s when many companies did not necessarily use the Internet for marketing purposes and did not understand the value of registering their own trademark domain names.[3] Others saw the potential profit and registered these valuable domain names in order to sell them back to the companies with a significant mark-up.[3] Cybersquatting continues to be an issue for many businesses online today, and there is speculation that new gTLDs may cause a spike in cybersquatting complaints.[4] As of 2012, a total of 2,884 complaints have been filed involving "domain name squatting".[4]

ICANN Policy

  • Uniform Domain-Name Dispute-Resolution Policy (UDRP): This international policy, approved by ICANN with recommendations from the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO),[5] provides a platform for resolving conflicts relating to second-level domain names, including cybersquatting and typosquatting.[6][7] UDRP applies to disputes that involve the "alleged abusive registration of a domain name"[8] and that fit the following conditions:
    • "(i) the domain name registered by the domain name registrant is identical or confusingly similar to a trademark or service mark in which the complainant (the person or entity bringing the complaint) has rights; and
    • (ii) the domain name registrant has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the domain name in question; and
    • (iii) the domain name has been registered and is being used in bad faith"[8]
  • Seeking UDRP Administrative Proceedings does not prevent a complainant from suing the registrant in court, although UDRP proceedings are often faster and less formal than court proceedings.[8]
  • See UDRP Policy Rules for more detailed information on UDRP Administrative Proceedings.
  • Uniform Rapid Suspension (URS) Policy: this policy can be used to suspend domain names that are "clear-cut cases of infringement caused by domain name registrations."[9] This approach is often deemed less costly and more time efficient than other proceedings; however, many popular domains are exempt from URS, including .com, .net, .info, .org, or any ccTLD.[9]
  • 2013 Registry Agreement (RA): This agreement, which all new gTLD applicants were required to sign, states that registries must require their registrars to include policies that prohibit registrants from activities like "trademark or copyright infringement."[10] Additionally, registries are required to "periodically conduct a technical analysis to assess whether domains in the TLD are being used to perpetrate security threats" and to keep security files on threats and the actions taken by the registries.[10]

Legislation

  • Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act of 1999 (ACPA): This law makes "the bad faith, abusive registration and use of the distinctive trademarks of others as Internet domain names, with the intent to profit from the goodwill associated with those trademarks" illegal.[11]
    • Under ACPA, a company can seek money damages and the transfer or termination of the offending domain name.[11]
    • For example, in May 2013, Facebook was awarded 2.8 million dollars in an ACPA lawsuit against typosquatters and cybersquatters in addition to gaining control of the offending domain names.[12]
  • Additionally, if a cybersquatting offense misleads Internet users by directing them to sites with pornographic or explicit content, the cybersquatter can be charged under the Truth in Domain Names Act of 2003.[13][14]

DNS Award

Awardees do not participate in cybersquatting or other types of intellectual property infringement and take proactive steps to prevent such abuses.

Additional Resources

Related Articles

Resources

  1. Cybersquatting: What It Is and What Can Be Done About It, Nolo
  2. Cybersquatting, Webopedia
  3. 3.0 3.1 History of Cyber Squatting
  4. 4.0 4.1 UK complaints over cyber squatting hit record and face increase by Jeevan Vasagar
  5. Timeline for the Formulation and Implementation of the Uniform Domain-Name Dispute-Resolution Policy, Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN)
  6. Domain Name Dispute Resolution Service for Generic Top-Level Domains, World Intellectual Property Organization
  7. Uniform Domain-Name Dispute-Resolution Policy, Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN)
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 Scope of the Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy, World Intellectual Property Organization
  9. 9.0 9.1 About Uniform Rapid Suspension System (URS), Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN)
  10. 10.0 10.1 Updated Registry Agreement (PDF), Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN)
  11. 11.0 11.1 The Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act: Key Information by Martin Samson (as originally cited in Shields v. Zuccarini, 254 F3d 476 - 3d Cir. 2001), Internet Library of Law and Court Decisions
  12. Cybersquatting; typosquatting – Facebook’s $2.8 million in damages and domain names by Christy Roth, Marianne Dunham and Jason Watson (May 10, 2013), Lexology
  13. Truth in Domain Names Act of 2003, Cybertelecom
  14. 18 U.S. Code § 2252B - Misleading domain names on the Internet, Legal Information Institute