The act of registering, dealing in, or utilising a domain name in bad faith is known as cybersquatting (also known as domain squatting). To profit from others, cyber squatters disregard the validity of a trademark. Domain names are inexpensive. As the internet grew in popularity, individuals realised that businesses would want a webpage. Some people began purchasing domains to establish websites that appeared to be from trustworthy companies.
If a corporation has a solid reputation but no website, it can either purchase the domain holder to transfer the domain or hire a trademark attorney to bring a case. The second technique is time and money-consuming, thus buying the domain straight from the cyber squatter is frequently chosen. Today, there are fewer options for cyber squatters because most firms prioritise the purchase of their domain name, especially if they have a strong trademark.
International Celebrities and Cybersquatting
A puzzling aspect of the domain sector is celebrity domain names. There seems to be presented a large number of celebrity domain name registrations that are not held by the celebrity. When it comes to the ownership of a celebrity domain name, however, the majority of conflicts end in the celebrity’s favour. Given that celebrity rarely has a trademark right in their names, this tendency is perplexing. Through the Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy, this paper investigates why celebrities have such positive results (UDRP). The UDRP’s name regulations are not often easy to comply with.
In a UDRP process, a complaint must establish three factors, whether or not the complainant is a celebrity. The celebrity must first demonstrate that the domain is identical or confusingly close to their trademark. Second, the celebrity must demonstrate that the domain owner has no genuine claim to the name. Third, the celebrity must show that the domain name was registered wrongfully and is used in fraudulent misrepresentation. Even if a celebrity may establish a common-law trademark right in their name, that right does not always win. The second UDRP criteria require celebrities to demonstrate that the domain owner had no reasonable use with the domain name and registered it incorrectly.
Some of the instances of such scenarios are:
- Donald Trump Case:
Donald Trump owns the TRUMP trademark, which is a unique mark. He alleged that the corporation “Web-advisor” breached trademark regulations by registering TrumpIndia, TrumpBeijing, TrumpAbuDhabi, and TrumpMumbai. The sites were created in 2007, the same year that Trump revealed ambitions to build TRUMP-branded hotels in Mumbai, India. The websites mocked Donald Trump’s shows “The Apprentice” and “The Celebrity Apprentice,” and their content was based on them.
Trump’s lawyers demanded that the websites be removed and that the corporation pay $100,000 in compensation for each of the four domains in late 2010, claiming that they were harming Trump’s image.
The two parties went before a WIPO panel after Webadivso refused to give up the domains and paid the penalties. Trump’s attorneys were successful in proving their case, and the courts compelled Webadviso to pay $32,000 in damages and relinquish the four domains to Trump. Because the two terms trump + location are a standard approach for hotels to describe websites, the domains were not identical, but they were deceptively similar. Because Trump is a real estate mogul, the addition of a generic location enhanced the trademark’s distinctiveness. The respondent knew they were planning to use the TRUMP brand name because the domain names were registered in 2007, shortly after the announcement of the new hotels in India. As a result, the respondent had no legitimate interest in the sites. The responder acted dishonestly and took advantage of the situation in an attempt to benefit.
- The Madonna case:
When Madonna was releasing hit after hit, the domain “Madonna.com” was still reasonably priced. Someone didn’t buy it until 1998, shortly before her comeback after a four-year absence, for a very substantial price. This was before domain name disputes were handled by the WIPO (World Intellectual Property Organization). If this group was involved, the domain would’ve been immediately transferred to the singer. The domain “Madonna.com” was previously used as an adult entertainment portal. The issue of Madonna versus the proprietor of Madonna.com was heard by the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center in 2000. One might now argue that Madonna is a generic phrase with no trademark protection. However, not everyone was in favour of the singer. The domain name was judged to be identical to Madonna’s trademarks, and the owner has used it in bad faith as a result of the dispute. Madonna was then given ownership of the domain. The artist now controls that domain, as well as several other domains.
- Jennifer Lopez case:
The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) ruled in favour of “J-Lo.” The owners of the commercial fan websites “jenniferlopez.net” and “jenniferlopez.org” were barred from continuing to run under these deceptive identities as a result of this ruling. The proprietors were judged not to be operating under fair use while collecting revenue from advertising on the domains in question, according to the judgement. The defendants went so far as to change WHOIS information to represent fictional organisations in their registration records to conceal their true identities. This was likewise deemed by the WIPO panel to be a sign of bad faith. The domain name then was transferred to Jennifer Lopez.
How to Prevent Ourselves from Cybersquatting
The Anti- cybersquatting Consumer Protection Act (ACPA) is a federal law that protects consumers from cybersquatting. This act includes a detailed definition of cybersquatting as well as what elements should be examined during a dispute. If the domain registrant is found guilty of cybersquatting, the court may order the domain to be forfeited, cancelled, or transferred (to the complaint). This law only applies in the United States. ACPA will be unable to act if the domain registrant is located in another nation.
World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO): WIPO provides arbitration and mediation services for international disputes, where an expert panel evaluates the case and resolves the issue. The Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP), designed by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, is taken into account (ICANN).
- Buying your domain with TLDs:
It’s self-evident that you won’t buy a lot of domains with various TLDs. But at the very least, purchase names with well-known TLDs such as.com, .net, .org, .biz, and so on. You can also purchase domains that are similar to your company’s name. If you plan to do business in multiple countries, get those country-specific domains like .ca, .in, .co, .uk, .au, and so on as soon as possible. Later on, you can redirect these domains to your main site. The cost of a domain name is approximately $10 per year (for non-specialized names). While the expense is minor in the broad scheme of things, taking this action now could save you from a lengthy (and expensive) legal battle later on.
Only trademark owners are covered by the ACPA and the UDRP. These restrictions won’t help you if you haven’t registered your name or brand name as a trademark – or, even worse, if someone else does. As a result, registering your trademark as soon as possible is critical to obtain regulatory protection.
When considering the current state of affairs around the world, cybersquatting is seen as a threat that has no bounds. Businesses have been plundered of their fortunes by cybersquatters. Cybersquatting is a wake-up call for governments around the world, and it demands urgent attention. Countries must take precautions to prevent the virus from spreading. WIPO’s active involvement in resolving domain name disputes has aided in the development of specific guidelines in this field. It offers a streamlined, cost-effective, and quick way to review the claims in front of it. In addition, the UDRP and the ACPA are primarily responsible for the prevention of cybersquatting. Both of these systems have advantages, but to obtain the intended result, they must be applied appropriately.
The UDRP allows for a speedy resolution of a dispute, but the ACPA permits a lengthy legal struggle with the possibility of substantial monetary settlements. Both systems, on the other hand, contribute to the security and structure of the complex and pervasive problem of cybersquatting. These laws, in combination with the judicial system, are the sole safeguards accessible to those seeking to defend themselves against cybersquatters.