Mark Twain once famously said that one would be wise to invest in land because they aren’t making it anymore. The same is true these days of popular domain names. Today, it is close to impossible to obtain straightforward “.com” addresses. Burgeoning entrepreneurs are now forced to select domain names that are increasingly fanciful and, as a consequence, less catchy and less useful for their business interests.
The problem of decreasing .com “land” is exacerbated by so-called cyber-squatters. Cyber-squatters, like the land squatters of old, claim their stake in a particular domain name by purchasing it from a domain name registry and simply taking up the space without the intention of putting a product or service in commerce.
Many frustrated entrepreneurs with growing businesses have come to find that their first-choice domain name is already taken by a cyber-squatter. What these entrepreneurs don’t know is that the act of cyber-squatting – that is, the act of using a domain name in bad faith with the intent of profiting from the goodwill of someone else’s trademark – is illegal.
How to fight for your domain name
If you have legitimate rights to a domain name in the form of a trademark, and you feel that you have been the victim of cyber-squatting, you have a relatively low-cost way to obtain rights in your domain. Domain name disputes involving alleged bad-faith registration can be resolved using the Uniform Domain Name Resolution Policy (UDRP) process developed by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN).
UDRP complaints are made online, and while the assistance of counsel may be helpful, it is not required. To proceed against the domain name owner (called the “Respondent” in UDRP-speak), the “Complainant” must file a claim with a dispute resolution service provider apporoved by ICANN. The list of approved providers can be found here.
The Standard for Transferring a Domain Name
According to paragraph 4(a) of the UDRP, a domain name can be transferred when it is found that:
(1) [the domain name] is identical or confusingly similar to a trademark or service mark in which the complainant has rights; and
(2) [the domain name holder has] no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the domain name; and
(3) [the] domain name has been registered and is being used in bad faith.
If you can meet these standards to the satisfaction of your arbitrator, that domain name could be yours. For more information on how to file a claim, take a look at the UDRP rules.
Image by binsurf.