Keeping your business safe from cybersquatters.

What is cybersquatting?

You will be familiar with the term ‘squatters’ in a property context, used to define a person who unlawfully occupies a property that does not belong to them.

But are you aware that ‘Property’ now extends into the digital world? Effectively, that means that websites are the ‘digital house’ of your business.

So, what if someone unlawfully occupies your digital house? It would be like someone occupying your home without your permission. And for most businesses – a website is their primary place of business.

This is where the term ‘cybersquatting’ was born.

What’s the problem?

Domain names can generally be registered by anyone (provided they are available). As a result, cybersquatters are becoming more prevalent.

Someone else using your brand as their own could potentially mean that they could:

  • pretend to be you online, costing potential customers or even your reputation;
  • preclude your ability to create a website using your brand, which could make you harder (if not impossible) to find online; and
  • put you in a position which may cost thousands of dollars trying to either get the domain name de-registered or buy it from them.

It just goes to show how important it is to be vigilant about securing domain names for your business.

Can we get our domain name back?

If you are already a victim of cybersquatting, then your options include:

  • taking the matter into dispute to an international domain arbitration system such as ICANN’s (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) arbitration system. Local laws regarding cybersquatting may also allow you to take the matter to court. In Australia, this could be under the laws of passing off or potentially via a trade mark infringement claim; or
  • if you know who owns the domain – contacting them directly and organising a purchase of the domain from them (hopefully at a manageable price).

Both can be costly exercises which may take some time and negotiation, together with some well-crafted legal letters.

Prevention is better than cure

Preventing ‘theft’ of your domain name is the best way to ensure you don’t fall victim to cybersquatters.

If digital presence is a given, as a matter of protection, you should:

  • apply to register your brand as a trade mark;
  • register the domain name that you intend to use for your business, as well as any closely related domains, spellings and typos¬†eg if your business domain name is ‘shoes.com’, it would be good practice to register ‘shoes.com.au’, ‘shoes.co’, ‘sheos.com’ etc);
  • actively track the status of these domain names to ensure that they are renewed on time.

In this way, you are ensuring the best possible chance of not falling prey to cybersquatters, as well as enhancing your position if a dispute arises.

If you need assistance with domain registrations, or you’re a victim of cybersquatting and need assistance with recovering your domain name, contact the Bespoke team who are experts in management and protection of domain name portfolios.

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Categories:
Intellectual Property
Technology

Posted on: 20 December 2018