How to Protect your Internet Domain Name?
Establishing a strong online presence is vital for companies to communicate and promote their products and services, due to the immense opportunities presented by online advertising and e-commerce.
Nevertheless, managing an online presence presents a fundamental challenge in the first place. Companies must contend with the problem of "cybersquatting
", which consists of rival firms buying up similar domain names to existing ones of well established companies, or even beating the latter in acquiring a domain name that is identical to the brand name of the established firm.
For instance, car manufacturer BMW recently spotted and blocked a Japanese business that attempted to sell the domain name "www.b.mw" for $1 million (making use of the top level domain of Malawi).
Furthermore, online e-commerce platform eBay identified over 1,000 websites that were illegally used its domain name.
And search-engine Google was literally assaulted when it introduced the domain name abc.xyz, with over 20,000 attempts to register similar websites with the term "google…" in them.
According to Jonathan Keane, companies can respond in several ways:
- TRADEMARK REGISTRATION: a good first step as it gives you certain legal rights over related web addresses. For example, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) gives a trademark owner an exclusive right to buy up a domain name before it is put up for sale on the market during a "sunrise period".
- BUYING UP SIMILAR DOMAIN NAMES: Buy up a host of domain names aside an existing one, thus undercutting any potential future cybersquatting. However, due to the fact that domain prices can largely vary in price, this option can be costly especially for small companies. It is therefore important to critically look at similar domain names and select the most relevant ones.<
- DISPUTE RESOLUTION USING UDRP: Make use of ICANN's uniform domain-name dispute resolution (UDRP) system, in which a panel of experts can order any infringement to be stopped and the company retains exclusive control of the domain name.
- DOMAIN NAME SUSPENSION USING URS: Make use of ICANN's uniform rapid suspension (URS) mechanism, where the domain name is suspended and the company can exercise the option to recover it later.
Despite of above recommendations, lawyers and dispute resolution professionals are likely to be very busy over the coming years handling the issues around cybersquatting.
⇒ What are your experiences with cybersquatting?
Source: Jonathan Keane, "How to Protect your Online Brand against Cybersquatters" 13 November 2015, bbc.com.