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Cybersquatting Involving Trademarks and Service Marks

Examples of Cybersquatting, also known as domain squatting, is the practice of maliciously registering, purchasing, or exploiting a domain name. Cybersquatters disregard trademarks to extort money from others. In actuality, the first person to purchase a domain name will get it.

Internet users realised businesses would require a website as the internet gained popularity. Some people started purchasing domains to build websites that appeared to be from credible businesses.

As an illustration, if Heinz hadn’t yet developed a website, a cybersquatter may purchase Heinz.com to resell it to the company in the future for a profit or use it to drive visitors and make money through advertising.

If a corporation has a strong reputation but no website, it can either pay the domain’s owner to transfer the name or hire legal counsel to file a lawsuit.

Trying to purchase the domain directly from the cybersquatter is typically preferable because the second option is time- and money-consuming. Nowadays, there are fewer options for cybersquatters because most companies give domain purchases a high priority, especially if they have a well-known trademark.

A new type of cybersquatting has emerged with the rise of social media networks like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, where trademarked businesses or names of dignitaries or public personalities are registered. Businesses have created profiles on social media platforms because of their popularity to attract more customers. Social networking networks have started giving verification tags to well-known organisations to build a great reputation and goodwill for their signs.

The trademark owner is prevented from using the well-known username due to cybersquatting, which precludes him from using his trademark on that social networking platform. The credibility of the mark may also be tarnished and harmed by the reservation of a username in bad faith. When someone reserves a username with malice aforethought, the trademark owner loses leverage over the credibility of his trademark.

TYPES OF CYBERSQUATTING:

Cybersquatters typically combine legal and illegal business practices to make money. In such schemes, the following components may be present: (1) registering common English word domains to resell them later; (2) registering frequently misspelt versions of well-known website names; (3) purchasing recently expired domain names; (4) posting disparaging remarks about a company or a person on the cybersquatting website; and (5) monetizing the content by publishing affiliate links and enticing users to click on them.

There are four types of cybersquatting:

  1. Typosquatting- The terms “typosquatting,” “sting site,” and “fake URL” are frequently used to describe this practice. Typosquatters take advantage of the many errors that Internet users make when entering a web address into a browser. Misspellings (such as www.intrenet.com), alternative domain name spellings (such as www.internets.com), other top-level domains (such as www.internet.net), and the use of Country Code Top-Level Domains (ccTLD) are examples of these errors (e.g., www.internet.co). Advanced typosquatting strategies take advantage of trademarks’ similarities in appearance, functionality, and sound. Homograph attacks, for instance, depend on the visual resemblance of symbols that might be confused as well as letters or strings that may be confused with one another, such as the confusion between the letters “vv” and “w” in the domain name www.bankofthewest.com (www.bankofthevvest.com).
  2. Identity Theft- Cybersquatters may buy a domain that the previous owner mistakenly failed to renew. Cybersquatters may simply keep track of the expiration dates of their target domain names thanks to specialised software tools. Cybersquatters may link expired domain names to websites that are exact replicas of the websites of the prior domain name owners after registering them. To trick their website users into thinking they are accessing the websites of the prior domain name owners, cybersquatters will use this tactic.
  3. Name Jacking- Name jacking refers to the registration of a domain name associated with the name of an individual, usually celebrities and well-known public figures. Name jackets benefit from web traffic related to the targeted individuals.
  4. Reverse Cybersquatting- An attempt to secure a domain name that is rightfully owned by another person is referred to as reverse cybersquatting. Intimidation and pressure to transfer the rightful ownership of a domain name to the person or business that owns a registered trademark reflected in the domain name are both examples of reverse cybersquatting. It should be emphasised that reverse cybersquatting might be viewed as a misuse of the processes for resolving domain name disputes. Reverse cybersquatting may also be considered a tort or unfair business activity under the laws of some jurisdictions, giving the victims of reverse cybersquatters the right to receive compensation for their losses.

Famous case-

With the fiscal year 2019–2020 annual turnover of more than 38,550 crore Indian rupees (about $5.28 billion, or 385,500,000,000 Indian Rupees), Amul is one of India’s top dairy companies. The company became a victim of cybersquatting after someone bought the following domains and made phishing websites for it:

Amuldistributor.com

Amulboard.com

Amufran.org.in

Amuldistributorindia.com

The fraudsters’ activity was-

  • had fake bank accounts opened in Amul’s name and
  • used email to send phoney forms as part of their plan.
  • They demanded payment to become an Amul distributor and franchisee.
  • They launched recruiting scams on the website in which candidates were required to pay a fee to apply for positions.
By Pranjal