A web domain has sprung up that is trading under my brand. Can I close it down?
This is what is known as cybersquatting, which is when a company registers the name of a web domain linked to a famous brand so it can either direct traffic to its site, sell counterfeit goods or try to sell the domain name back to you.
The good news is that you can stop it. Ross Walker, European trademark attorney and partner at Forresters, says: “There are several options for retailers wanting to evict cybersquatters. These include sending cease-and-desist letters; bringing an arbitration proceeding under the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers – the private sector, non-profit corporation created in 1998 to oversee the domain name registration system; or bringing a lawsuit in court.”
The bad news is that this problem is only likely to get worse for retailers in the future. The World Intellectual Property Organisation, which is responsible for the promotion of the protection of intellectual property throughout the world, has recently released figures that suggest that it is on course to give a record number of judgements for the whole of 2012. In 2011, it adjudicated on 2,764 cases, but by August this year it had already decided on 1,931 cases.
Retailers need to act fast to avoid cybersquatters and seek professional advice if they believe a registrant with their name is using it for commercial gain, advises Walker. “Although it is possible to evict cybersquatters and reclaim domain names, prevention is far easier than dispute resolution.”