The Internet has been something of the Wild West as many register domain names hoping to cash in down the road. Recently, National Public Radio reported on a domain squatter who bought clintonkaine.com to market his political fan fiction. He sold the domain to the Trump campaign after it put in a higher offer than the campaign of the named political candidates.
Companies such as Apple and Hasbro have fought battles over domain names like newton.com and CandyLand.com. John Cusack is the one of the most recent individuals to get his name domain transferred back after a company had been using it improperly.
When a conflict over an Internet domain name arises, where is it resolved?
In the recent case, John Cusack filed a complaint with the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) against a company called Whois Privacy Corp. based in the Bahamas. The Uniform Domain-Name Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP) applies to disputes between registrants and third parties over the registration and use of domain names.
Cusack argued that the domain created confusion with Internet users, because it didn't provide a bio or fan information. It was being used solely for the company's financial gain. The company didn't respond, so it might not come as a surprise that Cusack was successful. The administrative decision found that Cusack hadn't authorized the use of his trademark and the domain had been used it in bad faith.
Other high-profile UDRP cases have been brought by other celebrities who often consider domain names as an afterthought. One reason there are more of these domain name disputes is that now people expect that tying a person name followed by .com will take them to that person's site. Initials pose a similar problem for companies in different industries using the same identifier. For example, KGP Telecommunication, Inc. and KGP International Limited have been fighting over kgp.com.
US federal court
Another avenue is federal court. Trademark litigation often starts with a lawsuit filed in federal court. An example was the recent suit brought by WPX Energy in the Northern District of Oklahoma.
The company alleges that the defendant created a domain that mimics its domain. The first hurdle for the energy giant will be to get the identity of whoever is behind Domains By Proxy LLC which is accused of spoofing emails to place orders.
The route you take to challenge a cyber squatter or defend against a claim will depend on the specific facts of your situation. At Arthur R. Lehman, LLC, we have helped client with just these issues. We understand the technology and legal sides of domain name disputes. Learn more about your available legal options today.