Cybersquatting – What to do to get your domain name

This is a problem almost all new owners of websites faced. You did some critical thinking to come up with a list of names that suits or is related to your product or industry and can’t wait to register the domain and get started, but wait, the name you wanted has been taken. What happens now?

With the internet being around for 47 years, this will be a more and more common occurrence. Sometimes it may just be people holding it for their own legitimate purpose while sometime it can be people holding it to sell at a high price to people who actually need it.

The people in later are called cyber squatters. They simply hold the domain name but does not have an actual website that is used for personal use or some form of business. The page does nothing more than some search function or advertisement display.

Below are some options that you can follow in the attempt to get that particular website name.

  1. Find out who the owner of the site is over here and contact them. Key in the website address that you wanted but is taken and look for the Registrant Email and Registrant Phone under the Raw WHOIS Record and contact them.
  2. If there is no reply, you can opt to wait for it to expire and register it.
  3. If you do not get any reply or can’t wait to try for it when it expires, you have two options.
    • To use an international arbitration system created by the Internet Corporation of Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). Note that there is a small fee involved.
    • Or to go through a broker to pay to get the domain name.

Going through ICANN

In 1999, ICANN adopted and began implementing the Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (UDNDRP), a policy for resolution of domain name disputes. This international policy results in an arbitration of the dispute, not litigation. An action can be brought by any person who complains (referred to by ICANN as the “complainant”) that:

  • a domain name is identical or confusingly similar to a trademark or service mark in which the complainant has rights
  • the domain name owner has no rights or legitimate interests in the domain name, and
  • the domain name has been registered and is being used in bad faith.

All of the 3 points above must be established in order for the complainant to prevail. What is bad faith? As described by ICANN:

(i) circumstances indicating that you have registered or you have acquired the domain name primarily for the purpose of selling, renting, or otherwise transferring the domain name registration to the complainant who is the owner of the trademark or service mark or to a competitor of that complainant, for valuable consideration in excess of your documented out-of-pocket costs directly related to the domain name; or

(ii) you have registered the domain name in order to prevent the owner of the trademark or service mark from reflecting the mark in a corresponding domain name, provided that you have engaged in a pattern of such conduct; or

(iii) you have registered the domain name primarily for the purpose of disrupting the business of a competitor; or

(iv) by using the domain name, you have intentionally attempted to attract, for commercial gain, Internet users to your web site or other on-line location, by creating a likelihood of confusion with the complainant’s mark as to the source, sponsorship, affiliation, or endorsement of your web site or location or of a product or service on your web site or location.

If the complainant prevails, the domain name will be canceled or transferred to the complainant. However, financial remedies are not available under the UDNDRP. More information about initiating a complaint is provided at the ICANN website.

If sadly, you are unable to prove all three points, you may have to resort to paying for the website name through the broker if you are unable to contact them directly. This is only if you must have that website name.

Hope this helps in case you end up in a situation that you need a website name that is taken.

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