Domain name infringement is one of the greatest threats that trademark owners face in protecting their valuable brand names. Why? Because registering a domain name is relatively fast and inexpensive, giving unscrupulous individuals ample opportunity to abuse the legitimate rights of trademark owners.
Domain name disputes arise from two common types of infringing activities:
- Cybersquatting- the act of using or registering all or part of another’s trademark or brand name in an attempt to profit from such registration
- Typosquatting- the act of registering variations of another’s trademarks or brand names that contain typos or misspellings that are confusingly similar to the protected trademark (an example would be “googel.com” for the well-known search engine company).
Fortunately, the Uniform Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP), developed by ICANN, the governing body for domain names, is a relatively fast and economical means for a trademark owner to contest disputed domain registrations that result from cybersquatting or typosquatting violations.
According to the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), trademark owners filed 2,696 complaints before the WIPO domain name arbitration forum in 2010 alone. The National Arbitration Forum, another ICANN approved domain name dispute forum, reported approximately 1,800 complaints filed in the same year.
To prevail in a domain name arbitration, a complainant must prove by a preponderance of the evidence the following:
- Respondent’s domain name is confusingly similar to the complainant’s trademark;
- Respondent does not have any rights or legitimate interests in the domain name
- Respondent registered and used the domain name in bad-faith
Each of the above elements of proof rests on sound legal precedent and arguments. As such, it is always advisable to speak with a domain name lawyer to further discuss your domain name rights and options.