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What Are Legal Options for Cybersquatting Victims?

cybersquatting.jpgCybersquatting, also referred to as domain name squatting, occurs when a person or entity purchases a domain name for the sole purpose of attempting to profit off of the goodwill that was built by another brand. The cybersquatter will often try to take that domain name and sell to the company who owns the related brand, generally at a steep price. If your business has been affected by a cybersquatter, you have legal options. However, these cases are notoriously complex. You need to get your case in the hands of a business law attorney who has experience handling domain name litigation.

Domain Names and Trademark Owner Rights

The Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act (ACPA) was enacted in 1999, which gives trademark owners legal protections against cybersquatters. Under the law, a cybersquatter is defined as a party who buys a brand associated domain name with the sole intention of selling it to the related trademark owner. Under the legislation, trademark owners can take action to recover the domain name in question without paying an inflated price. However, this can only occur if each of the following elements is achieved:

  • The person or entity bringing the action is doing so in relation to a brand name for which they actually have trademark protection;
  • The person or entity that is the defendant in this action registered the domain name in question in bad faith; this means that they did so with the sole motive being an attempt to extract profit from the rightful trademark holder;
  • The trademark was already distinctive at the time that the domain was initially purchased, and did not simply later become so; and
  • The domain name in question is identical or is similar enough to cause consumer confusion with the protected trademark.

What Is the Difference Between Cybersquatting and Domain Name Investing?

Domain name investing is a legitimate business practice. Investors have the right to purchase domain names and sell them for a profit. They can do this by improving the content or brand value of the domain name, or by having the foresight to purchase a name that will increase in value on its own. In this way, domain name investing is similar to investing in real estate. However, the line between legitimate investing and cybersquatting is sometimes very thin. It is important to remember that the primary difference comes down to the following: investors are trying to buy general domain names in order to create profit, while cybersquatters are targeting specific brands in order to extract money from them.

Do You Need Legal Advice?

If you are involved in domain name litigation, the dedicated San Jose telecommunications law attorneys at Diemer, Whitman & Cardosi, LLP can help. Our team has extensive experience handling all sides of telecommunications issues, including domain name disputes. Please do not hesitate to contact our San Jose office today at 408-971-6270 to schedule your free initial consultation. Our firm represents clients throughout Silicon Valley, including in Mountain View and Sunnyvale.



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