Cybersquatting: Definition and Discussion

Not long after domain names became available for anyone to purchase, cybersquatting became a major problem. Cybersquatting involves the registration and usage of a domain name that infringes on a brand or trademark. Essentially, my  cybersquatting definition would be intentionally and knowingly using a famous trademark, renowned  brand  name, or  well known person’s name within a domain name in order to profit off of that brand or mark.

Here’s how cybersquatting is described on a page on the Harvard Law School website:

“There is no single accepted definition of cybersquatting.   Generally, however, if someone who lacks a legitimate claim registers a domain name with the intent to sell the name, prevent the trademark holder from gaining access to the name, or divert traffic, this activity will be considered cybersquatting.   A close corollary to cybersquatting is typosquatting – where the domain name registrant registers a variant of a famous trademark.”

There is much more information about cyber squatting and typo squatting on the aforementioned Harvard Law web page.

Cybersquatting involves the purchase and registration of domain names that are meant to capitalize on the recognition of famous brands, trademarks, and celebrity names. Generally speaking, the First Amendment should allow people to express their opinions about brands and celebrities while using a domain name that contains the name of that brand or celebrity. However, the domain name owner can not profit from using the brand or celebrity name.

Brand owners, famous individuals, and other trademark holders have the means to stop this domain name squatting. They may file UDRP arbitration through the NAF or WIPO. The UDRP is not very expensive, and the decisions are made fairly quickly, compared to traditional litigation. Alternatively, a lawsuit may be filed to try and get the rights to the domain name(s) and be awarded damages. One downside to litigation is that it can be expensive and it can take quite a bit of time to resolve.

Most domain name investors are not cybersquatters. In fact, domain investors may be insulted if they are referred to as cybersquatters or “squatters,” since domain investing is a legitimate (aka legal) means of earning an income while cybersquatting is not.