FAQ: What is cybersquatting?

In the early days of the internet, the practice of registering a domain name corresponding to a famous name, usually that of a company and usually with the aim of selling the domain name to that company, became known as "cybersquatting". Of course this term derives from "squatting", occupying a property without permission.

Nowadays, the term is used to mean many different things but most often it denotes bad faith registration / use of a domain name designed to target a trade mark holder (not necessarily a registered trade mark owner) in some way. For example, the alleged cybersquatter may not intend or attempt to sell the domain name to anyone but simply to post paid advertising links on a website at the domain name in order to profit from visitors looking for the trade mark owner or its business. Or maybe the registrant is a competitor seeking to divert customers to a business competing with the trade mark owner.

A variation of cybersquatting is known as typosquatting. This occurs when someone registers a domain name designed to capitalise on typing mistakes made by internet users. This can involve registering / using a common misspelling of the target name / trade mark. Or a typical typing error.

People sometimes misunderstand the meaning of cybersquatting. We are sometimes told: "Our domain name has been registered by cybersquatters". But on closer examination it turns out that the alleged cybersquatter has legitimately registered / use the domain name.

The term cybersquatting is sometimes used in a legal context. For example, there is a US federal law known as the Anti-Cybersquatting Consumer Protection Act which defines cybersquatting as registering, trafficking in, or using a domain name with bad faith intent to profit from the goodwill of a trade mark belonging to someone else.

But generally speaking, it's not legally relevant whether or not someone can be described as a cybersquatter or indeed a typosquatter. What is important is to establish whether the registrant's conduct comes within the criteria for recovery of the domain name under any applicable domain name dispute arbitration procedure or whether it involves trade mark infringement, passing off or some other breach of intellectual property rights which can be enforced by legal proceedings.

How Adlex Solicitors can you help you with cybersquatting legal issues ...

... for a free initial chat and more information, contact Adam Taylor on +44 (0) 207 317 8404 or email.

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