Cybersquatting (also known as domain squatting), according to the United States federal law known as the Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act, is registering, trafficking in, or using an Internet domain name with bad faith intent to profit from the goodwill of a trademark belonging to someone else. The cybersquatter then offers to sell the domain to the person or company who owns a trademark contained within the name at an inflated price.
The term is derived from "squatting", which is the act of occupying an abandoned or unoccupied space or building that the squatter does not own, rent, or otherwise have permission to use.
Technical strategies for cybersquatters
Cybersquatters sometimes register variants of popular trademarked names, a practice known as typosquatting.
Some countries have specific laws against cybersquatting beyond the normal rules of trademark law. The United States, for example, has the U.S. Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act (ACPA) of 1999. This expansion of the Lanham (Trademark) Act (15 U.S.C.) is intended to provide protection against cybersquatting for individuals as well as owners of distinctive trademarked names. However, even notable personalities, including rock star Bruce Springsteen and actor Kevin Spacey, failed to obtain control of their names on the internet.
Jurisdiction is an issue, as shown in the case involving Kevin Spacey, in which Judge Gary A. Feess, of the United States District Court of the Central District of California, ruled that the actor would have to file a complaint in a Canadian court, where the current owner of kevinspacey.com resided. Spacey later won the domain through the National Arbitration Forum.
Since 1999, the United Nations copyright agency, World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), has provided an arbitration system wherein a trademark holder can attempt to claim a squatted site. In 2006, there were 1823 complaints filed with WIPO, which was a 25% increase over the 2005 rate. In 2007 it was stated that 84% of claims made since 1999 were decided in the complaining party's favor.
- Jethro Tull vs. Denny Hammerton, 2000 (WIPO Case)
- Madonna vs. Parisi, 2000 (WIPO Case)
- Primedia Magazine Finance Inc. (Tiger Beat) vs Next Level Productions (Benny Doro).
- People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals v. Doughney, 2001
- Lamparello v. Falwell, 2005
- Lufthansa v. Future Media Architects, 2008
- Microsoft vs. MikeRoweSoft
- Dennis Toeppen v . Panavision
- Nissan Motors vs. Nissan Computer
With the rising of social media websites such as Facebook and Twitter, a new form of cybersquatting involves registering trademark-protected brands or names of public figure on popular social media websites.
On June 5, 2009, Tony La Russa, the manager of the St. Louis Cardinals, filed a complaint against Twitter, accusing Twitter of cybersquatting. The dispute centered on a Twitter profile that used La Russa's name, had a picture of La Russa, and had a headline that said "Hey there! Tony La Russa is now using Twitter." The profile encouraged users to "join today to start receiving Tony La Russa's updates." According to La Russa, the status updates were vulgar and derogatory. La Russa argued that the author of the profile intended, in bad faith, to divert Internet traffic away from La Russa's website and make a profit from the injury to La Russa's mark. On June 26, 2009, La Russa filed a notice of voluntary dismissal after the parties settled the case.
Efforts to curtail cybersquatting in social media
Social networking websites have attempted to curb cybersquatting, making cybersquatting a violation of their terms of service.
Twitter's name squatting policy forbids the cybersquatting as seen in many domain name disputes, like "username for sale" accounts: "Attempts to sell or extort other forms of payment in exchange for usernames will result in account suspension." Additionally, Twitter has an "Impersonation Policy" that forbids non-parody impersonation. An account may be guilty of impersonation if it confuses or misleads others; "accounts with the clear intent to confuse or mislead may be permanently suspended." Twitter's standard for defining parody is whether a reasonable person would be aware that the fake profile is a joke. Lastly, soon after the La Russa suit was filed, Twitter took another step to prevent "identity confusion" caused by squatting by unveiling "Verified Accounts." Usernames stamped with the "verified account" insignia indicate that the accounts are real and authentic.
Facebook reserves the right to reclaim usernames on the website if they infringe on a trademark. Trademark owners are responsible for reporting any trademark infringement on a username infringement form Facebook provides. Furthermore, Facebook usernames require "mobile phone authentication." In order to obtain a username, the individual needs to verify the account by phone.
- Patent troll
- Domain Name System
- Michael Urvan
- John Zuccarini, convicted of violating the Truth in Domain Names Act
- Nissan Computer
- Planned Parenthood Fed'n of Am., Inc. v. Bucci
- Taubman Sucks, an intellectual property lawsuit
- Top-level domain
- Uniform Resource Locator (URL)
- Domain tasting
- Domain name front running
- Satyam Infoway Ltd. v. Sifynet Solutions Pvt. Ltd.
- "Kevin Spacey loses pivotal cybersquatting court case". Theregister.co.uk. Retrieved 2016-09-27.
- "U.N: Cybersquatting complaints rise". Yahoo! News. March 12, 2007. Archived from the original on March 21, 2007.
- "'''The Independent''' July 30, 2000: A hit for Jethro Tull in domain name dispute". Independent.co.uk. 2000-07-31. Retrieved 2013-09-22.
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2007-02-14. Retrieved 2008-07-22.
- Arbitration and Mediation Center. "WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center ADMINISTRATIVE PANEL DECISION Primedia Magazine Finance Inc. v. Next Level Productions". Wipo.int. Retrieved 2013-09-22.
- "Deutsche Lufthansa AG v Future Media Architects, Inc". Adrforum.com. Retrieved 2016-09-27.
- "Panavision Int'l, L.P. v. Toeppen | Internet Trademark Case Summaries". Finnegan.com. Retrieved 2016-09-27.
- "''see''La Russa Complaint, La Russa v. Twitter, Inc., No. CGC-09-488101, 2009 WL 1569936". Citmedialaw.org. Retrieved 2013-09-22.
- "''see''La Russa Notice of Voluntary Dismissal, La Russa v. Twitter, Inc., No. CGC-09-488101, 2009 WL 1569936". Citmedialaw.org. Retrieved 2013-09-22.
- "Twitter Support: Name Squatting Policy". Help.twitter.com. Retrieved 2013-09-22.
- "Twitter Support: Impersonation Policy". Help.twitter.com. Retrieved 2013-09-22.
- "About verified accounts | Twitter Help Center". Twitter. Retrieved 2016-09-27.
- "Help Center, FACEBOOK". Facebook.com. Retrieved 2013-09-22.