Internet Domain Name Disputes
The internet is an essential part of virtually any business nowadays. Even businesses that are not directly involved in e-commerce typically find their web presence an indispensable part of their marketing program. The first thing many people do when looking for any kind of product or service is to look online.
As a result, internet domain names have become very important. Your domain name is your internet “street address.” Resolving internet domain name disputes requires expertise in both internet law and trademark law.
Two of the most common types of internet domain name disputes are cybersquatting and trademark violations.
Cybersquatting is when someone registers a domain name very similar to a well-known brand in hopes of extorting money from the legitimate brand owner.
For example, if you are the owner of Jenny’s Flowers you might have the domain jennysflowers.com. If someone else registered jennysflowers.net, and did not have a business that actually sold flowers, but instead tried to sell you jennysflowers.net, that’s cybersquatting.
In many cases a squatter will point “your” domain name to the website of a competitor, to give you more “incentive” to buy the name.
Such practices are illegal under the Anti-cybersquatting Consumer Protection Act (“ACPA”). The ACPA allows a trademark owner to bring a lawsuit against a domain name registrant who has a “bad faith intent to profit from the mark” and who registers, traffics in, or uses a domain name that is identical or confusingly similar to a distinctive trademark.
Not all domain name disputes involve cybersquatters. Sometimes they’re trademark disputes between legitimate businesses.
For example, there was a company called Zero Micro Software that obtained the domain name micros0ft.com (with a zero instead of the letter “o”). The company was not a cybersquatter – it was a real company with a real business, and the domain name was connected to its business, but Microsoft filed a lawsuit based on trademark infringement.
It does not necessarily take a lawsuit under the ACPA to resolve a domain name dispute. There is also a process known as the Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy that was created by ICANN, the organization responsible for managing domain names, that can be less expensive than a lawsuit.
As trademark attorneys registered to practice before the US Patent and Trademark Office we have experience handling all kinds of trademark disputes, including ones involving internet domain names.