I was reading Mike’s Blog today about WIPO wanting domain registrars to be held responsible for their registrants’ trademark infringing domain names, and I give it a thumbs up. In fact, I said the same thing back in March of 2008, “Registrars Should Help Prevent Cybersquatting.”
I believe that many people register domain names that have trademarks in them without really knowing the risks involved. When I first started buying domain names circa 2003-04, there were a few trademark names that I purchased. I didn’t know the legalities of this, and when I found out, I canceled the few that I owned and bought back a few that I had sold, and cancelled them, too. Although the likelihood of getting sued for names I created out of thin air was small, I didn’t want to deal with them.
I do understand why some companies invest in trademark domain names that receive traffic and generate revenue. It’s a business decision that some companies have to make, but in most cases, new registrations are way more of a liability than a profitable business. I cringe when I see names for sale on Ebay like MicrosoftProductDownloads.com (or something similar), because they are screaming at Microsoft to file a lawsuit (this one happens to be unregistered). I attribute some of these new registrations and sale attempts to people who aren’t aware of the legal ramifications and liabilty a name like this can have.
I think the domain registrars should be a bit more responsible when it comes to names that are obvious trademarks. Sure, there is a considerable gray area, but if they were required to warn registrants about potentially infringing domain names (like the Surgeon General warns smokers), there would be a lot less cybersquatting – and consequently less revenue for the registrars.
Upon further review, back in July of 2007, when I first started blogging, I said the following, and I still agree with it today (aside from the term “crime” as it’s not technically criminal).
In my opinion, a majority of trademark inclusive domain names aren’t owned by malicious people, but rather those who don’t know it is against the law. As a measure against unlawfully registering a domain name with a trademark, what if registrars required consumers to check off a box acknowledging that they are aware of the Lanham Act and its penalties before every registration? Perhaps even a brief summary of the law along with the possible penalties of owning/selling/profiting from a trademarked name would act as a deterrent to people who may be unknowingly committing a crime.
I believe the sooner we police our industry, the better things will be for us all.