Domain Name Cybersquatting And UK Legislation

Domain name cybersquatting has been around for many years and occasionally it pops up in interesting legal cases. WebProNews has reported on the case against OnlineNIC and the 663 domain names is registered based on Verizon mis-spellings.

The US court found that OnlineNIC was involved in the practice of cybersquatting and awarded a US$33.15 million damages claim against them. OnlineNIC was found guilty of breaching US legislation on domain names and cybersquatting. What about here in the UK?

Whilst not directly outlawing cybersquatting, or typosquatting as it is commonly referred to, UK legislation provides most businesses with a strong legal framework surrounding the issue. British courts have effectively made the practice of cybersquatting illegal since 1998 when One in a Million lost the right to use domain names such as marksandspencer.co.uk. There have not been any typosquatting cases brought before the courts as yet due with complainants having other avenues to seek redress. If you have registered a business, trademark or brand and someone has registered a domain name based on a variation of any of them, you can claim that domain name for yourself.

To challenge a domain name you need to make a claim through either the Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP) or the Nominet Dispute Resolution Services (DRS). We have a post titled “Domain Names: Your Legal Rights In Scotland” that goes further into the subject.

The case in the States involving Verizon is not the first and it won’t be the last. The payout is huge and is based on a value of US$50,000 per domain name. It won’t be long and we may have similar cases being heard in our courts, particularly where a loss of income or earning potential can be proven. When it comes to domain names, the best route to take is to base the name on something uniquely you – at least then you won’t be accused of cybersquatting.

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