Protecting Your Brand From Domain Squatters and Copy Cats

protecting your domain
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Companies and individuals have domain name issues to deal with every now and then. The big problem arises when someone registers a domain name which is very similar to yours. When this happens, your first step will usually be to obtain a legal transfer of the domain name to you. There are some important factors to take into consideration to ensure you are well within your rights to get a domain name transfer.

Age of the Domain Registration

If the domain name concerned was registered a long time ago, your case might prove difficult as the authorities may infer that the domain name can’t have been seriously affected by it because you would have reported it a lot earlier. The length of time is case specific; what is considered a long time for one domain name might not be the same for another. However, if more than 2 years have passed since the domain name was registered, it weakens your case. A more helpful situation would be where the registration was made a long time ago and only became active recently.

Who Registered First

In a case where the other party registered the domain name before you registered yours, your position becomes a whole lot more difficult. It is especially difficult when the TLD for the domain is .com, .net or .org. because you will need to prove that the domain name is being used in bad faith and that it was registered in bad faith too. For .co.uk and some other domains however, it is sufficient to prove bad faith use alone without registration in bad faith.

Whether Bad Faith Can Be Proven

Proving bad faith on the part of the registrant is a key factor when going through the courts or through dispute resolution procedures provided for domain name disputes. For .com domain names, .org and .net domain name categories, bad faith has to be proven in two forms – at the time of registration and how the domain name is being used. .co.uk domain names on the other hand simply need bad faith to be demonstrated in the way the domain name is being used, whether the original registration was carried out in good faith or not.

How Generic the Domain Name is

A domain name like gardenspaces.com will pose a bigger difficulty when you need to establish entitlement than if the name is more proprietary in nature like andrejamesgardenspaces.com. It still doesn’t mean that it is completely impossible to obtain transfer of such a domain name, but the adjudicator will need convincing that the name has become synonymous with you, and with what you represent.

Ownership of a Registered Trademark

Your chances of success in reclaiming a domain name are vastly improved if you can prove that you own a registered trademark which is identical to the domain name under dispute. However, if the person you’re accusing is the one with the registered trademark, then you might find yourself on the wrong end of a domain name claim.

If the Name Is the Same as That of a Celebrity

The chances of procuring a domain name transfer are greatly enhanced if the domain name corresponds to a celebrity. You would have a very good chance of getting a domain name transfer if you are a celebrity and your name is being used by another party to provide similar services in your field. However, where the name is being used for a fan site and no commercial profit is being made from the website, you’ll have to consider another option.

If the Domain Name Includes a Famous Brand

In this case, the big questions to answer are whether your brand is well known enough, whether the other party was trying to trade on your goodwill, or whether a similar or identical name was registered without any prior knowledge of you, your name or your website. Well-known brand owners are sure to get a positive result with the courts and dispute resolution bodies with domain name registrations of this nature.

In order to avoid a case where you have to enter into a domain name dispute, you should register a domain name of your choosing as soon as possible. Procrastinating could lead to you losing the domain name.

Registering a domain name is a straightforward procedure. Start by checking for the domain name you want in well-established domain name registration sites. Checking for domain name availability is as easy as entering your desired name into the box provided and clicking search. After you have found a name you want, the next step is to register it. Also consider registering any websites that web searchers might search for to lead to your site, including misspellings (cutebabyclothes.com, cutebabieclothez.com, and so on) or generic domains which are related and yet to be registered.

A good rule of thumb when choosing a domain name is to make is as unique as you possibly can. With a unique domain name, you can raise your odds of getting trademark protection and help you steer clear of potential claims of infringement or cybersquatting. However, you might want your domain name to relate as closely as possible to your business and clearly represent exactly what you are offering. A balance between uniqueness of the domain name and pointing clearly at your product will need to be sought.

Domain squatting is a real issue for companies, celebrities, business owners and individuals alike. If you are currently experiencing this problem, consider the scenarios discussed above to discover if you have a real case.

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James Cummings

James Cummings is an Occupational Psychologist and serial entrepreneur. He runs Daily Posts Copywriting and has worked on numerous B2B campaigns for customers around the world.