Cybersquatting defense for California businesses

The intangible symbols and words of trademarks used by California companies are identifiers. To customers and clients, a trademark represents who you are and what you do. To understand the value of a trademark, see our blog post about a recent trademark dispute over the use of the words “comic con.”

The practice of riding on the shirttails of someone else’s success is as old as business itself. The Internet has just provided a new way to do it. There are people and competitors who plot to profit from business identities through cybersquatting.

That uncomfortable sounding term describes a party who obtains a domain name that looks like or sounds like a trademark belonging to another party. A cybersquatter capitalizes on a trademark by association. In some cases, these rip-off artists simply “squat” on the domain name, until the trademark owner coughs up a considerable sum to buy it.

This backdoor theft often works because companies would rather pay off a cybersquatter than invest in a complex, costly domain name dispute. The problem is, when you give a thief a pass or pay them to recover trademark control, you encourage more stealing. Let’s examine an option that doesn’t involve buying property that rightfully should belong to you or litigation – arbitration.

The Anti-Cybersquatting Consumer Protection Act grants permission to settle domain name disputes through the Internet Corporation of Assigned Names and Numbers. ICANN coordinates the global Internet addresses we call domain names. Online address complaints can be resolved under the Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy.

To obtain a favorable arbitration outcome, trademark owners must show a cybersquatter’s domain name is close enough to the trademark to cause confusion. Additionally, it must be established the domain name owner had no real claim to the identifier and acted in bad faith. The advantage of intellectual property litigation is the possibility of recovering compensation for cybersquatting damages.

Source: FindLaw, “Internet Cybersquatting: Definition and Remedies” Aug. 26, 2014

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