Domain Name Protection, Internet & Anti-Cybersquatting Attorneys in San Diego, CA
Domain Name Protection, Internet & Anti-Cybersquatting Attorneys – San Diego, CA
A strong online presence is vital to securing new business and promoting your brand. A website or domain name that relates to your company name is essential to customers being able to find you. However, similar business names or worse, “cyber squatters” can make it hard for a legitimate business to have a vibrant, unique online presence. If you have been affected by trademark infringement or have had someone infringe on your intellectual property or domain rights, you may have legal recourse to acquire the domain and prevent unscrupulous people from attempting to extort money from you for its return.
What is Cybersquatting?
The practice of cybersquatting, also known as domain name poaching, is the sale, registration or use of a domain name for the purpose of profiting from another’s trademarked brand or company name. This is generally found where a third-party unaffiliated with a business purchases the rights to the domain names that use a trademark or company name with the intent to sell the names at a profit.
For example, a hypothetical third party might purchase the rights to use variations of “Apple.com,” such as “applecomputers.com,” or “appleelectronics.com.” This third party may then offer these rights back to Apple company for a high profit, banking on the fact that many customers will search for Apple products using one of these popular website domain names. In the worst cases, a cyber squatter might actually register a celebrity name, and claim to hold it for some arguable legitimate purpose, while actually attempting to sell it to the celebrity or their agents. This practice isn’t limited to larger commercial entities, although it’s common. It can even happen to smaller business owners, celebrities, or popular social media influencers.
In related cases, users may take advantage of variations of brands to drive traffic to websites, where they actually have no true affiliation. In many cases, these turn into trademark disputes.
The Importance of Advocating For Your Domain Name
As web presence grows, the number of domains close to your brand may dwindle. The “.com” and “.net” websites are the most popular, and as a result, the registrable names are decreasing in number and increasing in value. Depending on the value of your business, you may have a case to advocate for the domain name to be transferred or sold to you. In some cases, this may happen through an arranged purchase with the initial registrant. In other cases, however, you may need legal representation if the URL or URLs have been misappropriated by a third party. If you’ve trademarked your brand or company name, you’ll stand a better chance of securing the URL during meditation or in a court of law.
Your Legal Rights to Intellectual Property
Domain names are protected under many of the laws that protect intellectual property. Domain names are often protected through the same trademark laws that protect your company name, tagline, and brands. Internet law is changing – instead of the handful of domains currently on the web (.com, .net, and .org, for example), many more that are proposed to be added, such as .coffee or .software. What this means for companies is that those third-party buyers may rush to purchase larger domain names, and offer to sell those back to legitimate businesses at a profit. For another hypothetical example, Apple.software may be purchased by a cybersquatter instead of by the legitimate business.
You have the right to intellectual property protection, including your internet presence. Federal law, as part of the FTC, protects companies from cybersquatters under the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) Uniform Dispute Resolution Policy. An attorney familiar with intellectual property law as it pertains to your domain name can help you secure the website you desire for your business, as well as similarly-named URLs to prevent malicious infringement on a domain name similar to yours but unrelated to your brand or business.
Trademark and Domain Name Mediation Process
To resolve a dispute involving a cybersquatter, you have a few options. First, you’re entitled to sue under the Anti-Cybersquatting Consumer Protection Act (ACPA). This can be handled by a team of attorneys familiar with the legal process of resolving domain name disputes – a complicated process with laws that change as technology changes. Trust a legal team that’s kept abreast of changing policies and the way that the courts apply intellectual property law to protect your interests.
If your lawsuit against a cybersquatter is successful, you will regain your domain name. In some cases, your brand or business may have suffered and you may be entitled to monetary damages from the cybersquatter.
You as the owner of the trademark (assisted by your legal team) must prove the third party that registered your domain name had bad-faith intent in registering the domain. “Bad faith” is typically defined as intentionally spoofing a legitimate business for malicious intent or for their own profit. To support your case, you must prove that you are entitled to the brand or trademark. Generally, this means that your trademark is distinctive and you as the owner were the first to use it for commercial purposes.
In cases where the defendant – the owner of the domain name that you wish to possess – registered the domain name as their own for their own business purposes, then you may not have a successful claim. Cases are determined by deciding whether the defendant registered the domain name in order to sell it for a profit or simply has a similar business or brand to yours. For example, an apple farmer may have registered “Apple.com” for his business, and not to extort money from Apple computers.
You may have other options to secure your domain name, instead of suing in court. The Internet Corporation of Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) has mediation and arbitration clauses that can help transfer a domain name from one party to another. This is an option instead of litigation, and the petitioner – you – simply presents the argument that the other domain name is similar enough to be confused with their own business. In addition, it must be proven that the domain owner doesn’t have a legitimate interest in the domain name.
Proving Your Domain Infringement Case
To ensure that you have a successful domain infringement case, your legal team will determine if it meets the standards set out in the federal Landham Act. This is also known as 15 U.S.C. § 1125(d), or the ACPA. In essence, you must be able to demonstrate that the owner of the domain name had no intention to practice business under that name, and acted in bad faith to purchase the domain.
To show that you, the plaintiff, have a legitimate interest in the domain name, you may be asked to provide proof of your company’s trademark or brand registration. If the initial domain holder has approached you offering to sell the name back to you, then you’ll need to show proof of those interactions, as well.
Protecting Your Online Reputation
In addition to using trademark law, our attorneys are familiar with using state libel, product disparagement, defamation, false advertising and unfair competition laws to help protect your company’s online reputation—and sue your adversaries if necessary. False allegations that are posted publicly can damage your business, and in some cases, have your business removed from popular online sales platforms. At Buche & Associates, we are experienced at getting legal issues resolved with false materials reported (sometimes by competitors) to online platforms, or posted online to damage your business. When somebody falsely attacks your online reputation, it has to be handled the right way. Call our attorneys if you are having an online reputation issue.
Resolving a domain dispute resolution can be a confusing time for many. While you’re interested in protecting your business and your good name, there are others that act in bad faith and try to take advantage of legitimate business owners. An experienced intellectual property lawyer can help you receive your domain name back and protect your business.
The legal team at Buche and Associates can help you secure your domain name and protect you from cybersquatters, and online trolls who may negatively impact your business. Our experience with intellectual property law can help with internet domain registration, as well as disputes involving the use of trademarks, copyright infringement, and trademark registration. We have a free consultation so we can make sure we understand your issue. You can contact us in the San Diego office at 858-459-9111, Los Angeles at 310-593-4193 or Houston, Texas at 713-589-2214.
What our Clients have to say...
I spoke with John and two of his attorneys about a the potential for patenting a bicycle braking apparatus. He was very knowledgeable and generous with his and his teams time. It turned out that the apparatus was not patentable but had it been we would have strongly considered Buche & Associates.MB S3/07/2014