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Protecting Your Rights In Domain Name Disputes

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You invest not only money in your intellectual property, but also your time and hard work as well, and you deserve to profit from your investments. A cybersquatter can take your hard-earned profits and damage your reputation through domain name theft or trademark infringement.

The legal team at Crockett & Crockett can help you protect your online presence from these dishonest practices. Your intellectual property is yours alone. We can help you enforce your rights in domain name disputes and ensure that cybersquatters do not benefit from your investment.

What Is Cybersquatting?

Cybersquatting occurs when someone purchases a domain name solely for the purpose of reselling the domain to the highest bidder. In general, cybersquatters buy or register domain names that use the trademarks of existing companies, and then try to sell that domain back to those same businesses. Sometimes a cybersquatter will wait until your domain name expires and then buy it out from under you before you can renew it.

A cybersquatter may also use your domain name to profit from the established reputation of your trademark. For example, a cybersquatter might use your domain name to set up a website that advertises a product that is similar to yours but sold by a different company. This not only generates profit for the cybersquatter, but it also hurts your brand and your income.

Usually, cybersquatters are willing to let you buy back your domain name, but at an inflated price that you may not be able to afford. You have legal options that will allow you to reclaim your domain name, and possibly get compensation for the damage caused to your brand and your business as well. Crockett & Crockett can assist you in obtaining relief if you are the victim of a cybersquatter.

What Is Domain Name Trademark Infringement?

Sometimes, cybersquatters do not engage in outright domain theft, but instead register domain names that are similar to yours in order to profit from your brand. There might be only one or two letters of difference between your domain and the cybersquatter's, or the other domain may contain a typo. The name might even be the same except for the top-level domain (TLD). For example, you may use ".com" and the cybersquatter may use ".org". The primary goal of this practice is to advertise or sell products similar to yours on these false sites.

Although you still have your rightful domain name in these cases, this practice is trademark infringement. Just like domain theft, trademark infringement violates your rights as the owner of your intellectual property. However, websites with domain names similar to yours can and probably do legally exist. It is only legally actionable when the owner of a similar domain uses it to try to make a profit from your trademark or brand.

How Can I Resolve A Domain Name Dispute?

There are various ways to resolve a domain name dispute. Sometimes, a simple cease and desist letter from a domain dispute attorney can resolve the conflict. If that does not work, you can bring an action against the cybersquatter in federal court or through the arbitration system overseen by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN).

Arbitration through ICANN's Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP) is an inexpensive and fast way to settle domain name disputes, resulting in transferring the domain name to the rightful owner. However, the UDRP does not allow you to collect monetary damages for injury caused to your brand or business. In order for your action to be successful, you must prove:

  • The domain name in question is similar or the same as your trademark
  • The owner of the domain name has no right to or legitimate financial interest in the domain
  • The owner of the domain registered it in bad faith (that is, with the intention of profiting from it dishonestly)

If you do not wish to pursue arbitration through ICANN, you may be able to file a federal lawsuit under the Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act (ACPA). Through litigation in federal court, monetary damages can be awarded in addition to the transfer of your domain name back to you. In order for this kind of cybersquatting lawsuit to succeed, you must prove:

  • The owner of the domain name registered it in bad faith
  • Your trademark existed before the owner registered the domain name
  • The domain name in question is similar or the same as your trademark
  • Your trademark qualifies for protection under federal trademark laws (meaning it is distinct and you were the first to use it)

We Are Ready To Help With Your Domain Name Dispute

If you are involved in a domain name dispute, or have questions about protecting your rights regarding a domain name, contact the experienced legal team at Crockett & Crockett. We will evaluate your case and discuss strategies for enforcing your intellectual property rights.

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