What Can You Do About Cybersquatting?

Cybersquatting occurs when someone registers an online domain name that includes trademarked content that does not belong to them. Their hope is that the trademark owner will pay them a significant amount of money in exchange for handing over use of the domain. A domain name means the online address for a website. For instance, if someone who didn’t work at Microsoft bought the rights to use the website Microsoft.com and then offered it to Microsoft in exchange for payment, it would be a case of cybersquatting. This was popular back before many companies had an online presence, and still happens to small businesses or brands just getting started.

Of course, someone else holding the domain name for your trademark does not automatically mean they are cybersquatting. It could be a coincidence or a completely ignorant competitor. If you go to the website, here are some clues that can help determine if it is cybersquatting:

  • If there is no website. If the domain name takes you to a blank website that says something similar to “This website is under construction,” it doesn’t look good. Most cybersquatters who have a domain name tend to leave it alone until the trademark holder notices.
  • If the website advertises similar products. For example, if Microsoft went to their domain being held and it showed advertisements for competitor’s computers and technology products. This is a clue the domain holder knows they are ripping you off and are looking to profit from it.
  • If the website takes you to a true website, then you might not be dealing with cybersquatting. If Microsoft found out Microsoft.com was being used for a bakery with the same name, it is probably unrelated and just a case of accidental trademark infringement.

This process is called squatting rather than holding for ransom because they will typically wait for the copyright holder to discover the issue. If the cybersquatter reached out to you offering the website, their intentions would become apparent. There is a similar process called typosquatting where someone registers a domain that people will frequently search while looking for your trademark. For instance, a Canadian teenager named Mike Rowe once received a Cease and Desist from Microsoft for typosquatting the domain name MikeRoweSoft.com.

If you have someone cybersquatting against you, your rights are protected by the Anticyberbullying Protection Act. The ACPA allows you to sue a cybersquatter and retrieve the rights to your trademarked website domain name. In order to win a case, you must prove that the defendant was actively cybersquatting and bought the domain name in bad faith in order to get paid. If your argument is legally sound, you can win the domain name.

If you are dealing with a case of cybersquatting, typosquatting, or other copyright infringement, contact Van Court & Aldridge LLP today! We are a patent partner that gets your business, your technology, and your possibilities.

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Van Court & Aldridge LLP is a boutique patent law firm that provides a wide range of patent-related legal services.

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