Articles Posted in Internet

Disputes over intellectual property ownership are placing fresh challenges before courts every day. Internet laws develop and update slowly compared to the complex legal issues they cover. A lawsuit recently filed by California clothing maker True Religion Apparel will determine the rigidity of cybersquatting laws.

Cybersquatting is the act of registering a domain name with a perceived commercial value, based on another party’s trademark. For example, the domain name coke.com could be bought with the intention of attracting Internet visitors searching for Coca-Cola. The cybersquatter makes a profit by hijacking customers or selling the domain name to the soft drink maker.

In fact, Coca-Cola owns coke.com, which transfers visitors directly to the company’s main website. It’s a common intellectual property defense strategy for businesses to buy trademark-associated domain names, including misspelled ones, to block profiteers.

A suffix mix-up or domain name misspelling and suddenly you’re at a website that looks a lot like the one you want but isn’t. People who make a living from cybersquatting are counting on you or your Los Angeles customers to be fooled into stopping by their websites.

Using a trademarked word in a domain name allows customers to find you easily. A cybersquatter knows this is your bread and butter and wants a piece of the action.

Cybersquatters will register one or multiple domain names that look like yours. They may add a different suffix, like wearedogwalkers.net instead of wearedogwalkers.com, register variations like weRdogwalkers.com or transpose a few letters the same way a computer user might.

People who share Internet opinions write some intelligent, funny, ignorant and downright inflammatory things. Internet trolls – not to be confused with unrelated patent trolls – provoke online arguments, sometimes just to enjoy the ensuing chaos.

It’s perfectly legal to post online opinions, whether or not Los Angeles readers like them. When you try to pass off a false claim as fact, you wander into intellectual property territory. You may hurt the reputation and profits of an Internet company by posting a complaint about an inferior product you bought, but as long as the facts are true, you’re not guilty of defamation.

Let’s say you purchased 10 bad pairs of shoes from the same website. You become so angry that opinion morphs into a barrage of false statements about the website. Now, you’re courting legal trouble.

California businesses with popular products and services can spend a lot of time in court making sure other people and companies don’t pilfer profits. Intellectual property theft is easier than stealing tangible items. Sensitive files, copyrights, patents and trademarks aren’t removed. They’re duplicated to siphon off revenue from an unsuspecting business.

Cybersquatting is a passive way for poachers to make money off domain names. Cybersquatters register domain name look-alikes with different suffixes or slightly-altered spellings to collect benefits from a company’s main domain. Users hurriedly searching for a website end up on pages with faux domain addresses, that fool them into thinking they’ve found the right link.

The insidious effects of cybersquatting have the potential to deflate a business’s reputation and income. Cybersquatters are elusive, since many shut down fake registered sites after making quick money. Sometimes businesses agree to pay the thief to recover losses.

Laws are enacted to deal with existing problems, but technology changes so rapidly that legal issues pile up faster than laws change. An Internet law that was effective a few years ago is obsolete due to the blinding pace of innovation and, on the flip side, tech abusers.

California lawmakers are playing catch up now to deal with a particularly ugly form of Internet defamation. “Revenge porn” occurs when a former significant other or spouse posts overly-intimate pictures of an ex online. Images of private ancient history are revealed to the cyber community with the intent to hurt.

Internet defamation is a delicate legal area. State legislation that would punish revenge porn offenders must balance the rights of privacy and free expression. Many California residents believe all Internet users should realize that nothing posted online is private. Critics ask “Why not?”

What does a newborn have in common with people who want to make fast money? Plenty, when the baby’s birth is a worldwide event. Cybersquatting plans simmered as the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge awaited the July birth of the third person in line to the British throne. Domain name buyers pounced on every variant of the infant’s name and title even as Prince George Alexander Louis’s name became public knowledge.

Cybersquatters in California and around the world look for opportunities and capitalize on them. Profits from domain name squatting ride on the backs of other people’s identities or hard work.

A domain name like hrhprincegeorgecambridge.co.uk — now up for sale by its non-royal owner for 10,000 pounds — holds value. The sale of the domain name or revenue generated by the website is pocketed by someone who has no “good faith” connection to a legitimate product or service. The domain name – nothing else — is the selling point.

Domain names have long been a company or brand identifier. Until recently, California businesses have had no fresh interest in domain name suffixes. The options for so-called generic top-level domains, known as gTLDs, were limited to .com, .net and a few other choices.

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers or ICANN, the non-profit keeper of domain name uniqueness, bowed to steady pressure to ease restrictions for gTLDs. New suffixes by the hundreds are expected to appear on the Internet this year.

Business owners are wondering whether the glut of new gTLDs will threaten intellectual property security. Will there be a resurgence of cybersquatting and domain name disputes? Do companies have to spend even more money to secure a brand?

The CashParking program offered by domain name registrar GoDaddy is not a big profit maker. Customers who buy domains they don’t want to use can choose to “park” them with GoDaddy. Under an agreement, advertising revenue from pay-per-click ads on the parked sites is split between the company and domain name owners.

A California judge doesn’t care how much or how little GoDaddy profits from the program. The judge decided the company’s “intent to profit” from the revenue-sharing program disqualified GoDaddy from safe harbor in a cybersquatting suit brought by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences.

The decision boosts the Academy’s assertion that GoDaddy profited unfairly, if only a little, from the Oscar awards ceremony trademark. AMPAS claims there are over 100 Academy Awards-related domains among GoDaddy’s parked inventory.

In a perfect Internet world, there would be no domain name extortion. The hoarding and reselling of URLs, a practice infamously known as cybersquatting, has cost California individuals and businesses untold millions of dollars.

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers or ICANN is poised to flood the virtual marketplace with new domain name suffixes. The addition of thousands of domain name endings will devalue the familiar dot-com suffix. Cybersquatters will no longer command a market of brand-nervous bidders and buyers.

Dot-com was never the only suffix available. Domain name cousins dot-net, dot-gov, dot-org and dot-“geographical location” never claimed the same U.S. fame.

Just when your Los Angeles business takes a step toward profit along comes a cyber-thief to destroy everything you’ve built. Unless a venture is extremely well funded, California startups can collapse under the weight of online theft.

Businesses are not entirely helpless victims of cybersquatting provided they carry Internet insurance or can support a domain name dispute. Regrettably, many of the individuals who launch online attacks have current or former company connections.

Business owners can avoid cybersquatting victimization by exploring the motivations of domain name burglars. Who has the most to gain by stealing a company’s URL? Enemies may be closer than many businesses realize or care to admit.