The Cybersquatting Law and Domain Name Disputes

The Internet has certainly spawned a wide array of colorful, sometimes tongue-in-cheek, terms that has become part of formal lexicon. One of these is cybersquatting, sometimes known as domain squatting, where an individual registers a domain name that is identical or sufficiently similar to a trademark to be confusing in order to benefit from this confusion. As pointed out on the website of Gagnon, Peacock & Vereeke, P.C., a trademark associates a product, service, or in this case a website, to a an established company. When it is used without authorization in domain name registration, the trademark owner may suffer losses in terms of reduced traffic, loss of reputation, or misinformation.

The intent of cybersquatters are typically to force the trademark owner to purchase the domain name or to lead consumers to presume an affiliation or connection between the trademark owner and the site which does not exist. Famous cases include Madonna v. Parisi and Julia Fiona Roberts v. Russell Boyd.

There are two ways that a trademark owner can address a case of cybersquatting. A complaint can be filed with the Internet Corporation of Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) for arbitration under the Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (UDNDRP), which will decide if there was bad faith involved on the part of the defendant. However, no monetary award is possible with the UDNDRP. A plaintiff may also file a civil case in federal court under the Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act (ACPA) where monetary awards may be requested for any damages the trademark owner sustained from the act of bad faith if the case is proven.

Not all domain name disputes are necessarily based on an intentional act of bad faith; the site owner may have a legitimate reason for registering a particular domain name. In such cases, this is not cybersquatting and the trademark owner may therefore not be able to keep the site owner from retaining or using the domain name. It is important to retain the services of an intellectual property lawyer in domain name disputes to ensure that all legal aspects of a case is carefully and thoroughly considered.

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