Cybersquatting is the purchase of a domain name in bad faith. Usually
this is done with the intention of reselling that domain name back to
the legal copyright holder, although sometimes there are other
reasons. This is considered a violation of the trademark laws.
An example of cybersquatting would be if someone purchased the domain
name “mcdonalds.ws” and then proceeded to attempt to sell it back to
McDonalds. It would also be considered a violation of the law if the
purchaser put up a web site describing how bad McDonald’s food was or
commenting on the service.
Cybersquatting was made illegal by the passage of a federal law in
1999 known as the Anti-Cybersquatting Consumer Protection Act. The
law became necessary because numerous large companies were forced to
pay large sums to buy their domain names from third parties. These
companies included such notables as Panasonic, Fry’s Electronics,
Hertz and Avon.
How do you know if a company is a victim of cybersquatting? Type in a
name that has been trademarked preceded by “www” and following
by “.com”, “.net” or “.org”. If you get a valid web site which looks
like it is related in some way to the domain name, then there is no
cybersquatting in effect (although this could be a simple trademark
violation). However, if you get one of the following results, then
this could be a cybersquatter.
– Can’t find server
– under construction
– page with no relationship to domain name
Of course there could be a reasonable explanation for each of these
results, so they do not always mean there is cybersquatting
occurring. It’s a good idea to contact the domain name owner before
taking any legal action to find out what’s going on.
How do you prove someone is cybersquatting?
– The domain name registrants intention was to profit from your
domain name in bad faith
– Your trademark was in effect and widely known at the time the
domain name was registered
– The domain name is identical to your trademark
– And you have actually registered the trademark
How do you know there is a bad faith intent? Well, there is probably
no bad faith intent if one of the following is true:
– domain name is the same as the person’s name or nickname.
– They are actually selling or intend on selling something on their
– Does the web site owner actually have a legitimate use of the
domain name? This would be, for example, true for a company
named “McDonalds Plumbing”. They would have a legitimate reason for
owning the “McDonalds” domain name.
Some clues that cybersquatting is occurring include:
– The domain name owner has put up a web site which in some way harms
your company. For example, if you had somehow purchased “AOL.ORG” and
created a web site about how AOL provided terrible service, you are
– If the domain name owner never legitimately used the domain name
and simply offered to sell it to you, he is cybersquatting.
If a person buys up a lot of names and has sold them over and over,
there is a pattern of cybersquatting.
– If the domain name is the same as a very famous trademark, then it
has a greater likelihood of being considered cybersquatting.
What can happen if someone is found guilty of cybersquatting is they
can be ordered to hand over the domain name. In addition, if the
domain was purchased after 1999, they can be ordered to pay monetary
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