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Cybersquatting

Cybersquatting
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Cybersquatting

Cybersquatting is one of the most-common elements involving trademark infringement on the internet.

Cybersquatting is defined as “registering, trafficking in, or using an internet domain name with a bad faith intent to profit from the goodwill of a trademark belonging to someone else”, according to the Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act (ACPA), enacted in 1999.

  Any company that has a certain level of name-brand recognition is likely to encounter some instances of cybersquatting. In some cases, domain name speculators, or “domainers”, purchase domain names that feature a company’s brand name — frequently with the intent of “holding the domain name hostage” while trying to extract inordinate amounts of money from the company that owns the mark. In yet other cases, brand name domains may be purchased by competitors in order to attempt to divert business from the name owner, or to block the name owner from obtaining a desirable domain name configuration. Finally, yet other cybersquatters parasitically seek to lure consumers into buying knockoffs of the brand’s products, or they desire to profit from the brandname by deploying malware when consumers visit the site, or they simply profit from ads displayed when the site is visited.

In some instances, a brand name can be legally used by a domain owner if the name might be applicable to other topics outside of the brand’s area of business. For instance, due to freedom of speech, a consumer might purchase a domain containing a trademarked name in order to host a complaint blog that criticizes the brand owner’s products or services. In yet other instances, it might theoretically be possible for a brand competitor to use a trademarked domain in order to host a page that factually compares the two companies’ products/services.

However, a “fair use” might actually be a thinly-disguised extortion scheme, such as one case we consulted upon involving a domain featuring a trademark name where the operator posted pornographic ads in order to shame the mark owner into paying an exorbitant fee to purchase the domain. Is this scenario legal? Perhaps it is, unless it could be proved that the domainer’s primary motive was to profit off of the trademark owned by another.

There are quite a few exploits and illegal business schemes involving domain names, such as the variation known as “typosquatting“.

We’ve even seen cases where a trademark domain name cybersquatter is one of the brand’s affiliates — raking in affiliate profits cannibalized from traffic that should have rightfully gone to the brand’s own websites in the first place!

If you’re seeking a professional Cybersquatting Expert Witness for your legal complaint involving trademarks and domain names, you’ve come to the right place. Chris Smith is a cybersquatting expert who is experienced in a number of technical elements related to cybersquatting, and can provide a definite advantage to your legal case.

The Cybersquatting Expert Witness’s Advantages

Technical Experience

Chris Smith worked for ten years for a major corporation in the telecommunications sector, frequently assisting the company’s intellectual property division with detection of domain name cybersquatting. Chris Smith knows methods for identifying and detecting cybersquatting, as well as performing investigations to identify the identities of domain owners, and other historical evidence related to domain name registrations. In one case, Chris Smith was able to identify a domain owner that had hidden behind an alias due to a mistake that was made ten years previously in registering another domain operated by the same person  — the mistake revealed a prior LLC they had used to make the purchase, and that LLC’s registration information revealed the true name and address of the domain owner.

Legal Background

Chris Smith served as expert witness on behalf of GoDaddy, in the prominent cybersquatting case, “Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences v. Godaddy.com, Inc.”. Smith provided an expert witness report that definitively helped GoDaddy establish that they had not used common online marketing means for committing cybersquatting against trademarks owned by the organization behind the Academy Awards.

Domain Name Expert

Chris Smith has been writing about domain names and trademarks for many years on internet marketing and technology news sites where his articles have been acknowledged as authoritative. Smith has also worked as a domain name valuation consultant, and as a domain purchase representative for short-keyword, high-end names costing up to one million dollars.

The U.S. Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act (“ACPA”) is an expansion upon the Lanham trademark act specifically to address trademark claims around domain names, and it was intended to provide protective relief for cybersquatting for owners of established trademarked names as well as for individuals.

Cybersquatting in Social Media

A rapidly-emerging area of Cybersquatting involves the registering of unique names or “handles” on social media sites. In many instances, these handles are exclusive, and no two users can share the same one. The expansion of social media usage has attracted cybersquatters similar to domain name cybersquatting. We’ve seen many cases of impersonation committed on social media platforms including Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and more. Despite attempts from the social media companies to disallow cybersquatting, it remains an area requiring ongoing policing and intervention.

[Color illustration of internet connections by Barrett Lyon / The Opte Project – CC BY-NC 4.0]