Webeden Blog Archive Cyber squatting on your domain name

Cyber squatting on your domain name

4 Replies

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For a while now we’ve been giving away a free domain name with website builder packages. We’ve also made it possible for you to buy a domain name too.

It’s not always easy to find the right domain name for your website. If you’re a company, or a brand, or even a club for that matter, you want a domain name that’s close to your company name. For example, if you’re running a taxi company called Joe’s Taxis, then your ideal domain name would probably be:
joestaxis.co.uk
joestaxis.com

But what if when you’re looking for your domain, you find that someone has already registered it? If you suspect that they have registered it for financial gain at your expense, then you’re having an encounter with a ‘Cyber Squatter’.

Cyber squatting is the registering of domain names that would otherwise be used by companies or brands, that are a close match to that company’s name or brand. Cyber Squatters do this for financial gain. They can make money by placing adverts on the domain name’s website, or by directing visitors to that domain name towards a competitor website of the brand owner – for money of course!

There have been some high profile cases of cyber squatting over the years. Most recently, when Bank of America bought Merrill Lynch, cyber squatters quickly moved in and registered the domain bankofamericamerrilllynch.com before either bank could do so.

The domain name registries – the organisations that administer domain names – have policies in place to make sure that brand owners can legally recover their brand’s domain names. If brand owners can prove that the domain name has been registered by someone else in order for that person to gain financially from the brand value of that domain name, then they are legally able to recover it. However, the domain reconciliation processes take time and costs money. And due to the sheer number of ways you can write a domain name, and the number of domain extensions available (.com, .net, .org,. info, .biz, .me.uk; there are around 40 major ones), this can be a costly process for any brand owner.

The bad news is that Cyber squatting is on the up. As reported on the BBC, cyber-squatting went up last year by 18%. There were apparently 1,722,133 reported incidents. And the bad news for brand owners is that the study – by brand specialists MarkMonitor – also found that 80% of websites identified 12 months previously as “abusive” were still in existence today

Whilst this probably reflects poorly on the domain ownership resolution process of the registries, it also indicates that brands should get a lot tougher against people who are abusing their brand by buying and developing domain names that trade on their brand name.

And with so many ongoing cases – which are on the increase – it also shows that cyber squatting is obviously a lucrative business for those involved.

So what should you do if you are the victim of Cyber Squatting? Your first and best bet is to contact the current owner of the domain name and to politely ask them if they would sell you the domain name. If they don’t want to, or agree but want to charge more than a nominal fee (say £50), then you need to contact the relevant domain name registry and follow their domain ownership dispute process. The registry for .uk domain names is called Nominet, and here’s a link to their domain name ownership dispute forms.

Have any of you website builders been victims of cyber squatting? Or have you cheekily bought a domain name that you knew was benefiting from someone else’s brand equity? Leave us a comment below.

  • http://dnURLs.com Kevin M.

    You are not being clear on what cybersquatting is here. Just because someone owns a domain name that is the name of someone’s business, doesn’t mean they are a ‘squatter’! What if there are 3 Joe Taxis’, who has the right to it, first come, or most louder complainer?? If a name is not a ‘trademarked’ name or the name of a ‘well known’ product, or the owner of a name is not capitalizing on a companies similiar name or product with the name, then they have a right to it also, and are not ‘squatting’!! And just because someone is parking or not using a name someone else wants, it again doesn’t make them a squatter either! Before you and everyone goes off trying to blame domain investors for being first to get something you, or someone else wants, understand what ‘squatting’ or ‘cybersquatting’ truly is! Other than a rant term for those that can’t get what they want and someone else has!!

    Do you think someone who owns more than one piece of property or home, is a ‘squatter’, because you or someone else wants it too!

    Good grief!

  • admin

    Hi Kevin,

    What I actually said is that Cybersquatting is where a “domain name has been registered by someone else in order for that person to gain financially from the brand value of that domain name”.

    I’m not blaiming genuine domain investors – I am one myself! As someone who works in the domain name industry I want to encourage domain investing. What this post is all about is where domains are bought that piggy back on someone else’s brand.

    If you disagree with what I say that’s fine, but you’re disagreeing with something I’m not saying :-)

    Ken

  • http://www.ibcsigns.co.uk Alison Cross

    If someone built websites for clients and actually registered the domain name that the client wanted IN THEIR OWN NAME, would you class that as cyber-squatting?

    This chap maintains that he does it to prevent his clients from being spammed, but the simple truth is that the actual clients are under the impression that THEY own their domain name and have been very surprised when I’ve told them that it’s not registered in their names, but in the name of their old webby.

    I’ve approached him to ask him to sell the domain names back to the various customers, but many of them can’t be bothered with the hassle (they see website building as Dark Arts and intimidating) and so, I lose the new business and he gets the old customer back.

    If it’s not cyber-squatting exactly, it’s certainly sharp practice in my view.

    AX

  • admin

    Hi Alison,

    That’s really tough. Whilst he’s not doing the traditional cyber-squatting thing of putting ads on the website, he’s definately gaining financially by owning a domain whose value is derived from the brand. In this case it means that customers are obligated to renew his services. The clients would of course win the domain back were it to go to arbitration, but if they haven’t got the time or energy for that then I guess it remains with him…

    If his concern is that the client does not get spam, then why not set up a catch-all email address on the domain, so that all spam mail comes to him? The client will get to own their domain AND be protected from spamming.

    In our view – as yours – the domain should always be registered in the name of the person who owns the website, or a representative (employee) of the company owning the website.

    Ken