What is Cybersquatting?
Cybersquatting is the term used to describe the illegal registration of a domain name, or the illegal use of a domain name. There are several ways in which cybersquatting is conducted, but the primary aim in most cases is to steal a domain name, or to deliberately misspell a domain name with the purpose of profiting from a brand identity that is not that of the domain name owner. This profit would come in the form of increased website visits from users who are under the impression the website belongs to a different, recognised brand or company.
Cyber squatters can easily steal domain names if a domain name has not been re-registered by the trademark or copyright holders. Domain squatting is a cyber crime that has high numbers of interested parties. When the Internet first began to increase in popularity it was common practice for a person (or company) to register the domain name of a famous company name, brand, celebrity or other famous word or slogan, in order to cash in at a later date by selling that domain to the relevant company, brand or person. This became known as cybersquatting, as it is the virtual equivalent of setting up home at a property without the permission of the owner (of that title).
In modern cybercrime parlance, cybersquatting relates mostly to the registration of a website in bad faith, in order to profit from a targeted trademark holder. The cyber squatter may not have any intention to sell the domain name, but instead have a plan to post paid advertising links on the website with the view of profiting from any visitors that might have landed on the site expecting it to belong to the relevant owner. Another practice by cyber squatters is to buy a domain name with the express purpose of diverting customers away from competitors in a certain industry.
Another variation of cybersquatting relates to deliberate typos. This is when a domain name is registered with a deliberate mistake within its spelling. This could be one of a brand that is commonly misspelt by consumers, or a typical typing error that many people encounter. Again, the intentions for typosquatting are the same as the reasons above, with some domain name owners looking to cash in by selling the registration, and others aiming to divert customers or post paid advertising links.
There is nothing illegal in the process of registering a domain name, and that is where legal assistance can help you if you feel like your business or brand has suffered due to cybersquatting. It all depends on whether the person registering the domain had bad faith intent to profit from the trade mark that belongs to someone else. If a trademark has been infringed in any way, or there has been a breach of intellectual property rights as a result of the domain name registration, there could be case to be made. If you own a brand and have been unable to establish the identity of a domain name that seems to profit from your hard work and trademark, you should look to employ the services of legal experts in cybersquatting.