Joanne Mafunda Moyo
24 July 2023 • 4 min read
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Domain squatting, also known as DNS squatting or cybersquatting, is a constant headache for many enterprises—startups and established businesses alike are all at risk. But what is cybersquatting, and how does it affect your business?
Imagine going on Google to search for your business website, and instead of your page popping up, you’re redirected to a website with a similar or identical domain name to the one you use.
Yes, disbelief and anger will likely be your first response.
And no, you’ve not fallen victim to a virus.
What has likely happened is that an individual or business (domain squatters) has targeted your business name and decided that they’re going to steal your online identity for various reasons, including getting ad revenue or charging you to get your business name back.
This is a nightmare for domain owners.
And unfortunately, domain squatting isn’t entirely illegal. But there are steps that you can take to resolve this situation, one of them being the Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP) and the Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (Rules) set up by ICANN.
It’s essential to educate yourself, as some people make money from registering domain names.
Under the UDRP, ICANN regulates the dispute-resolution service providers (DRSP) who handle the process of domain name disputes.
So, before registering your domain name, you need to ensure that your registration is in line with the UDRP’s terms—one of which is the requirement that all domain name holders submit to a mandatory administrative proceeding if someone claims their domain name was obtained wrongfully.
The complaining party has to prove the following:
But what if it was an honest coincidence that you have a similar domain name to another business? In this case, if you receive such a complaint, you can challenge it by showing that:
Let’s explore domain squatting laws and how the UDRP deals with domain squatters.
If you’re the owner of a domain name that is being investigated, these are the four circumstances that the UDRP considers to be bad faith:
If the panel appointment by the DRSP determines a domain squatter wrongfully obtained the domain name, it can be canceled or transferred to the complainant. It’s hard to prevent domain squatting, but you can handle it.
Before initiating a UDRP proceeding, the panel usually sends a letter to the domain name owner demanding a transfer to the rightful owner. If the offending owner refuses to respond to the letter, this is evidence that they are acting in bad faith.
It’s also important to note that good faith domain use that results in a likelihood of confusion with a registered trademark should not be transferred in a UDRP proceeding. Here are the steps to starting a UDRP proceeding:
Domain squatting can severely impact your business and even tarnish your reputation. Dealing with the issue promptly, ideally with the help of an intellectual property attorney, will help prevent any serious problems with domain squatters.
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