Cybersquatting (also known as domain squatting), according to the United States federal law known as the Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act, is registering, trafficking in, or using an Internet domain name with bad faith intent to profit from the goodwill of a trademark belonging to someone else. The cybersquatter then offers to sell the domain to the person or company who owns a trademark contained within the name at an inflated price.
The term is derived from "squatting", which is the act of occupying an abandoned or unoccupied space or building that the squatter does not own, rent, or otherwise have permission to use.
Some countries have specific laws against cybersquatting beyond the normal rules of trademark law. The United States, for example, has the U.S. Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act (ACPA) of 1999. This expansion of the Lanham (Trademark) Act (15 U.S.C.) is intended to provide protection against cybersquatting for individuals as well as owners of distinctive trademarked names. However, some notable personalities, including actor Kevin Spacey, failed to obtain control of their names on the internet because the US ACPA considers ownership of a website name "fair use" for which no permission is needed, unless there is an attempt to profit from the domain name by putting it up for sale.
Jurisdiction is an issue, as shown in the case involving Kevin Spacey, in which Judge Gary A. Feess, of the United States District Court of the Central District of California, ruled that the actor would have to file a complaint in a Canadian court, where the current owner of kevinspacey.com resided. Spacey later won the domain through the Forum (alternative dispute resolution) f.k.a National Arbitration Forum.
Since 1999, the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) has provided an arbitration system wherein a trademark holder can attempt to claim a squatted site. In 2006, there were 1823 complaints filed with WIPO, which was a 25% increase over the 2005 rate. In 2007 it was stated that 84% of the claims made since 1999 were decided in the complaining party's favor.
- Jethro Tull vs. Denny Hammerton, 2000 (WIPO Case)
- Madonna vs. Parisi, 2000 (WIPO Case)
- Primedia Magazine Finance Inc. (Tiger Beat) vs Next Level Productions (Benny Doro).
- People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals v. Doughney, 2001
- Lamparello v. Falwell, 2005
- Lufthansa v. Future Media Architects, 2008
- Microsoft vs. MikeRoweSoft
- Dennis Toeppen v. Panavision
- Nissan Motors vs. Nissan Computer
- Van Cleef & Arpels, S.A. v. Nexperian Holding Limited
- Aviva Brands Limited v. Nexperian Holding Limited
- Swiss Arabian Perfumes Ind. Ltd. v. Nexperian Holding Limited
- Mou Limited v. Nexperian Holding Limited
With the rising of social media websites such as Facebook and Twitter, a new form of cybersquatting involves registering trademark-protected brands or names of public figures on popular social media websites.
On June 5, 2009, Tony La Russa, the manager of the St. Louis Cardinals, filed a complaint against Twitter, accusing Twitter of cybersquatting. The dispute centered on a Twitter profile that used La Russa's name, had a picture of La Russa, and had a headline that said "Hey there! Tony La Russa is now using Twitter." The profile encouraged users to "join today to start receiving Tony La Russa's updates." According to La Russa, the status updates were vulgar and derogatory. La Russa argued that the author of the profile intended, in bad faith, to divert Internet traffic away from La Russa's website and make a profit from the injury to La Russa's mark. On June 26, 2009, La Russa filed a notice of voluntary dismissal after the parties settled the case.
Social networking websites have attempted to curb cybersquatting, making cybersquatting a violation of their terms of service.
Twitter's name squatting policy forbids the cybersquatting as seen in many domain name disputes, like "username for sale" accounts: "Attempts to sell or extort other forms of payment in exchange for usernames will result in account suspension." Additionally, Twitter has an "Impersonation Policy" that forbids non-parody impersonation. An account may be guilty of impersonation if it confuses or misleads others; "accounts with the clear intent to confuse or mislead may be permanently suspended." Twitter's standard for defining parody is whether a reasonable person would be aware that the fake profile is a joke. Lastly, soon after the La Russa suit was filed, Twitter took another step to prevent "identity confusion" caused by squatting by unveiling "Verified Accounts". Usernames stamped with the "verified account" insignia indicate that the accounts are real and authentic.
Facebook reserves the right to reclaim usernames on the website if they infringe on a trademark. Trademark owners are responsible for reporting any trademark infringement on a username infringement form Facebook provides. Furthermore, Facebook usernames require "mobile phone authentication". In order to obtain a username, the individual needs to verify the account by phone.
- Domain name front running
- Domain Name System
- Domain tasting
- John Zuccarini, convicted of violating the Truth in Domain Names Act
- Michael Urvan
- Nissan Computer
- Patent troll
- Planned Parenthood Fed'n of Am., Inc. v. Bucci
- Satyam Infoway Ltd. v. Sifynet Solutions Pvt. Ltd.
- Taubman Sucks, an intellectual property lawsuit
- Top-level domain
- Uniform Resource Locator (URL)
- "Kevin Spacey loses pivotal cybersquatting court case". Theregister.co.uk. Retrieved 2016-09-27.
In the Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act 1999, US Congress accepted that as long as there is no attempt to sell on a "personal name" Web site for profit, then it is an example of "fair use" and permission is not needed from the individual in question.
- "U.N: Cybersquatting complaints rise". Yahoo! News. March 12, 2007. Archived from the original on March 21, 2007.
- "A hit for Jethro Tull in domain name dispute". Independent.co.uk. 2000-07-31. Retrieved 2013-09-22.
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2007-02-14. Retrieved 2008-07-22.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
- Arbitration and Mediation Center. "WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center ADMINISTRATIVE PANEL DECISION Primedia Magazine Finance Inc. v. Next Level Productions". Wipo.int. Retrieved 2013-09-22.
- "Deutsche Lufthansa AG v Future Media Architects, Inc". Adrforum.com. Retrieved 2016-09-27.
- "Panavision Int'l, L.P. v. Toeppen | Internet Trademark Case Summaries". Finnegan.com. Archived from the original on 2016-10-01. Retrieved 2016-09-27.
- Center, Arbitration and Mediation. "WIPO Domain Name Decision: D2017-0441". www.wipo.int. Retrieved 2017-08-15.
- Center, Arbitration and Mediation. "WIPO Domain Name Decision: D2017-0730". www.wipo.int. Retrieved 2017-08-15.
- Center, Arbitration and Mediation. "WIPO Domain Name Decision: D2017-0872". www.wipo.int. Retrieved 2017-08-15.
- Center, Arbitration and Mediation. "WIPO Domain Name Decision: D2017-1079". www.wipo.int. Retrieved 2017-08-15.
- "''see''La Russa Complaint, La Russa v. Twitter, Inc., No. CGC-09-488101, 2009 WL 1569936". Citmedialaw.org. Retrieved 2013-09-22.
- "''see''La Russa Notice of Voluntary Dismissal, La Russa v. Twitter, Inc., No. CGC-09-488101, 2009 WL 1569936". Citmedialaw.org. Retrieved 2013-09-22.
- "Twitter Support: Name Squatting Policy". Help.twitter.com. Archived from the original on 2009-07-01. Retrieved 2013-09-22.
- "Twitter Support: Impersonation Policy". Help.twitter.com. Archived from the original on 2009-07-01. Retrieved 2013-09-22.
- "About verified accounts | Twitter Help Center". Twitter. Retrieved 2016-09-27.
- "Help Center, FACEBOOK". Facebook.com. Retrieved 2013-09-22.