Dealing with Cybersquatting

Undetected cybersquatters take away brand reputation, revenue and profits.

Brand owners certainly have plenty to be aware of online, and knowing what precautions to take against cybersquatters is just one issue.

Cybersquatters tend to be opportunists who register domain names related to brands, “squatting” in the hope that they can financially gain from the brand and its reputation through either selling the domain name or using it for profit through advertising.

Whether it be a product, service, sport or even a rock star, cybersquatters seek to take advantage of unregistered domain names to make money.

Common methods used by cybersquatters include:

  • Registering related domain names in various top level domains (TLDs)

  • Misspellings and plurals of the brand

  • Monitoring for lapsed registrations

And while the problem is growing in that, there are more disputes over domain names, the number of domain names disputed as a proportion of the total number registered is declining.

In 2012, trademark holders filed a record 2,884 cybersquatting cases covering 5,084 domain names with the WIPO Center, the largest of the dispute resolution bodies, in 2012 under procedures based on the Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP). This represents an increase of 4.5 percent over the record established in 2011.

But domain name registrations grew by 12 percent in the year according to Verisign’s latest Domain Name Industry Brief. So while WIPO does not handle dispute resolution for all top level domains, it would be reasonably safe to say disputes over domain names are growing at a slower rate than actual registrations are increasing.

The second largest of the dispute resolution bodies, the National Arbitration Forum (NAF) had over 20,000 disputes lodged with it in 2012, while the number of cases dropped to 2060 from the 2011 figure of 2082. Like the WIPO results for 2012, the NAF figures show a drop in the disputes lodged when compared to the total number of domain names registered globally.

But what can be done if you find a domain name you believe should be yours is cybersquatted?

There are a few options. These include sending cease and desist letters, going to court, or the most efficient, lodging a dispute with an appropriate dispute resolution body such as the World Intellectual Property Organization or the National Arbitration Forum, the two bodies that handle the most disputes over domain names.

Brand protection companies like NetNames assists brand owners not only to identify and detect where brands are being cybersquatted, but also to effectively acquire domains from squatters or take down infringing sites. It’s not a surprise that the world’s leading brands are making efforts to have a sound brand protection strategy in place to protect online assets from cybersquatters online.


9 September 2013