Cybersquatting: Don’t be a victim or a perpetrator (Published in the NCRA Journal of Court Reporting)
Looking for me on the Internet? Previously, you wouldn’t have found me by typing in the Internet address “LisaMigliore.com.” Prior to legal notice, instead you would have been directed to a competition’s website, a competitor with whom I have absolutely no association, personally or professionally. I felt victimized.
Wikipedia defines cybersquatting as ”registering…or using a domain name with bad faith intent to profit from the goodwill of a trademark belonging to someone else.”
Three other of my colleagues in Kentucky were similarly targeted, with five diversionary sites in total. The websites are not currently linked to the competitor’s website; yet the association with the competitor’s name remains in public view in “cache” form when conducting a Google search, remnants of the once-active links, much to my chagrin.
Proper spelling is of the utmost importance to us as reporters, but more than simply for accuracy in our transcripts. If clients were to mistype “reporters” instead of “reporting,” or vice versa, or misspell a name ever so slightly, traffic intended for a particular business could be redirected with unintended or confusing results for the seeker. This is a form of cybersquatting known as typosquatting.
Another tactic of cybersquatters includes buying up web domains for which one has no legitimate right with the intent to resell them at a profit to another.
If you feel you are the victim of a cybersquatter, there are a myriad of legal remedies available to you. The most economical remedy is preemption. If I had purchased the misspelled sites earlier, they would not have been available to my competitor. Also, given that one of my competitor’s defenses in my case is that they wished to create a number of gripe sites, I am now the proud owner of several new domain names: LisaMiglioresucks.com, LisaMiglioreBlacksucks.com, among others. Purchasing a few domain names on Register.com at the cost of $2 apiece is far less pricey than legal action. Although there’s no way to completely protect yourself against every possibility if someone intends to do you or your business harm, purchasing the most common misspellings of your domain name or reserving the .net, .org, .biz, or .info domain addresses for your business can mitigate the potential for harm.
Should you ever be inclined to attempt to redirect web traffic through diversionary websites to your own site, be forewarned. This action can be a violation of the Federal Anti-cybersquatting Consumer Protection Act, as well as the anti-cybersquatting provisions of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) which governs and administers disputes through the International Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN).
James R. Higgins, Jr., a Louisville-based attorney concentrating in intellectual property law, states, “Under the Lanham Act, cybersquatters may be compelled in a civil action in federal court to transfer the diversion websites to their lawful owner without cost to the lawful owner; as well as to pay damages for cumulative amounts including profits earned during the time period the diversionary websites were owned, and damages (e.g., lost business) sustained, and the costs of any action brought in federal court. The Lanham Act also provides for recovery of attorney fees by a prevailing party in ‘exceptional’ cases. Cybersquatters may be also personally liable for the above damages.”
An alternative to filing in Federal Court is pursuing relief through WIPO, or “Internet Court,” which provides for a quicker and more affordable resolution. This is the route I have chosen to pursue thus far. For a filing fee of $1,500, a complainant can seek to resolve disputes for up to five domain names, with rulings typically issued within 60 days of receipt, according the informational WIPO website. The WIPO process is more informal than the traditional court setting, decisions rendered by “experts in such areas as international trademark law, domain name issues, electronic commerce.” While hiring an attorney to aid in the process of filing a complaint is helpful, even advisable, it is not required with this process. For more information on filing through WIPO, visit http://www.wipo.int/amc/en/domains/guide/index.html Past decisions rendered by the WIPO panelists are available online for review.
“After hearing about your experience I am going to file a trademark for our logo and our name. I have thought about it over the years and always came to the conclusion that it probably was not necessary,” states Candace Kahn, owner of Abrams, Mah & Kahn, a California court reporting firm.
“I just looked up the filing information: www.uspto.gov. $395, and we can file it online. I had already registered our website with GoDaddy years and years ago, but after your experience I added several similar names to ours that would only be used if someone were trying to do to us what they did to you.”
Lisa Migliore Black, Migliore & Associates, Louisville Court Reporting and Video Services. All Rights Reserved.