What is cyber squatting?

Cyber squatting is the act of registering, selling or using a domain name identical to a well-known name with the intent of profiting of the goodwill of someone else’s trademark. It generally refers to the practice of buying domain names that use the names of existing businesses or famous people for the purpose of subsequently demanding large payments for the transfer of the domain names to the owner of the trademark the domain name is based on.

Can you give me an example of cyber squatting?

In 1994, Joshua Quittner, a journalist, contacted the McDonalds Corporation to ask why it had not registered the domain name mcdonalds.com. Quittner then registered the domain name and created an email address ronald@mcdonalds.com. He later published an article demanding computer equipment for a local school from McDonalds in exchange for the domain name. McDonalds ultimately agreed to donate $3,500 for purchase of the equipment and the domain was transferred to McDonalds.

How do I know if a domain name is being used by a cyber squatter?

As a general rule, first you need to check if the domain name takes you to a functioning website. If it takes you to a website stating “this domain name is for sale” or “under construction” or “can’t find server” there is an increased likelihood that you are dealing with a cyber squatter, though in many cases the domain name in question may be offered for sale by a retailer of domain names, essentially a real estate agent for domains, known as “domainers” or the site may actually be under construction by its rightful owner. In some circumstances though, the absence of a functioning website may indicate that the purpose of the domain registration is to sell it back to its rightful owner.

Why use Internet Law?

The law permits every business to enjoy commercial benefits of its trademark and reputation, known as “good will”.

The terms of registration of domain names prohibit a domain name being registered in bad faith, such as to divert business and web traffic, or in an attempt to obtain payment for the transfer of a domain name that is legitimately protected by a trademark.

There are two courses a victim of cyber squatting can pursue:

  • challenge a particular domain name registration under the appropriate provisions in their jurisdiction; or
  • use an international arbitration system created by the Internet Corporation of Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) (a form of dispute resolution).

Trademark experts consider the ICANN arbitration system to be a faster and less expensive option than challenging cyber squatting in the court system.

If you suspect your trademark rights have been infringed, you can use our services to be referred to an expert with significant internet law and intellectual property experience who can investigate whether cyber squatting has occurred and, if so, bring an application pursuant to the Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution (UDPR) policy implemented by the ICANN and auDa (if you are concerned about a .au domain name). This is an inexpensive an efficient way of resolving disputes, no matter where the domain registrant is located.

In some cases, an even more efficient and cost effective solution is to retain a solicitor to send a letter of demand to the registrant of a domain name you believe is infringing your intellectual property rights, e.g. your trademark through cyber squatting.

Contact us with your enquiry today!