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Once considered as a popular online money-making scheme, domain squatting (or cybersquatting) is not only frowned upon but is now considered illegal. But what is domain squatting and what can be done to reclaim your site from domain squatters? This article will answer that.
Domain squatting is the process of selling and registering a domain name with the purpose of profiting from someone else’s brand or trademark. Domain squatters can earn when someone is redirected to their site and clicks on the ads or by holding a domain name hostage until the real brand or trademark owners pay up, often at an exaggerated price.
Here are some techniques commonly practiced by domain squatters:
1. Domain squatters sometimes practice typosquatting, by registering domains that contain typographical errors accidentally entered by internet users when typing a website address or applying different spelling variations of a well-known trademark. An example of typosquatting is yuube.com which can divert YouTube visitors to their sites.
2. If the domain owner does not re-register its domain name before the expiration date, a domain squatter may buy it before the original owner can renew it. An automated software is used to check and quickly register lapsed domain names. This technique is also called renewal snatching.
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How would you know if you are victim of domain squatting?
1. Try to check your business name or trademark if it leads you to a functioning website. If that website greets you instead with “this domain name is for sale, contact us now!” then it’s most likely an offer made from a cybersquatter. This could only mean that the domain owner’s intention was to sell it to the next bidder.
2. If the domain name has a functioning website but is generally filled with advertisements relevant to your trademark, then this is a clear case of domain squatting. There’s a big chance that the cybersquatter operates that domain to take advantage of someone’s popularity and promote Google ads.
Winning back a squatted domain name
If you think that the domain name was registered in bad faith, you have every right to reclaim that domain. Disputes on domain names are typically resolved through Uniform Domain Name Resolution Policy (UDRP), a policy developed in 1999 by ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) to specifically address issues on domain squatting. Under this policy, the successful complainant can request for transfer of ownership or the domain names deleted.
There are countries with specific policies that deals with cybersquatting outside the trademark law:
1. Singapore – Singapore Network Information Centre (SNIC) for .sg domains
2. U.S.A – Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act (ACPA)
3. Canada – Canadian Internet Registration Authority (CIRA)
4. Australia – .au Domain Administration (auDA)
5. United Kingdom – Nominet Dispute Resolution Service (DRS)
Before you could reclaim that domain through URDP, consult with a lawyer with an expertise on this matter to know your chances in winning this case. Depending on the type of domain, the legal process can be long, costly, and complicated. Assess the situation first if it’s all worth the trouble to file a lawsuit or would it be cheaper and quicker to just pay the cybersquatter’s price instead.