Internet Domain Name Disputes And How To Handle Them

There are thousands of Internet domain names that are being registered each and every day, and many of such registrations result in internet domain name disputes, such as Cybersquatting [1], Typo Squatting[2], and Domain Name Hijacking[3].  As a result, the greatest concentration of Internet-related litigation to date has involved domain name disputes.  Depending on what particular domain name dispute that you are experiencing, there will be different options in how you may elect to attempt to resolve the dispute.

In order to have a website, you must register the domain or URL of your website with an accredited domain name registrar such as Network Solutions® or GoDaddy®.  Anyone who registers an Internet domain name must represent that:  (i) the statements in its application are true; (ii) to the best of its knowledge, it’s selected domain name does not interfere with or infringe upon the rights of any third party such as trademark rights; and (iii) its selected domain name is not being registered for any unlawful purpose such as unfair and deceptive business practices.   Defendants who are guilty of Cybersquatting, Typo Squatting and Domain Name Hijacking breach these representations.  If you are able to collect clear and convincing evidence of such unlawful activity, then it is very possible that you will be able to acquire and control domain names harming your business through a domain name dispute procedure administered by WIPO[4].  This WIPO procedure is an arbitration process that provides for a speedy and cost effective means of resolving domain name disputes.  Over Ninety percent (90%) of WIPO filed complaints have been won by plaintiffs.  If you are a victim of a domain name dispute, this may be a very attractive means to obtain control of the disputed domain name and resolve the dispute.

However, there are other times where WIPO arbitration may not be attractive procedure to address your domain name dispute and you may need to consider filing a lawsuit in court.  Domain name disputes involving competing name rights, such as situations where two companies are using the same or similar business name and each company wants to register the name as a domain name.  For example, Nissan Motors, Inc. and Nissan Computers, Inc. litigated against each other to see who had the right to register and own the domain name www.nissan.com. Since these similar business name cases often involve relatively meritorious claims on both sides, and are highly fact specific, litigation is an attractive forum to resolve such domain name disputes.

Additionally, we are now seeing a larger number of domain name disputes where former employees or website developers, and even competitors, are implementing information warfare tactics in order to acquire personal information about the actual domain name owner to impersonate them and persuade the domain name registrar to modify the registration information and/or transfer the domain to another registrar.  Once this has been accomplished, the domain name hijacker has full control of the domain and can use it or sell it to a third party. This can be financially devastating to the original domain name holder, who may have derived commercial income from a website hosted at the domain or conducted business through that domain’s e-mail accounts. Addressing these types of domain name hijacking situations is often very time intensive that interrupts or temporarily halts your daily business operations and is very expensive in resolving the dispute because it will often require the implementation of covert tactics as well as both mediation and litigation.

No matter what domain name dispute that you are forced to address, your least expensive means in addressing any domain name dispute is to be proactive in protecting your domain names.  This involves targeting and registering domain names related to your business, requiring all employees and vendors who have access to your domain name registration data to enter into non-disclosure agreements with significant penalties for any breach thereof, and actively monitoring your competition’s domain name activity.

Do not be reactive and call our offices today to schedule a Domain Name Audit. If you mention this article when you schedule your Domain Name audit, we’ll completely waive the $500 initial consultation fee that we customarily charge. We look forward to helping you resolve your domain name issues.  Call (919) 468-3266 or email mark@ishmanlegal.com.  For additional information on this topic as well as other related topics, please visit www.IshmanLaw.com and www.IshmanLegal.com.


[1]Cybersquatting” is where a defendant registers or uses a domain name with bad faith intent to profit from the goodwill of a trademark belonging to someone else. In such situations, the defendant will attempt to sell the domain to the owner of the trademark contained within the domain name at an inflated price, or use the domain name to unlawfully compete against the trademark owner.

[2]Typo Squatting” is where a defendant seeks to take advantage of consumers’ likely typographical errors that involve the use of trademarks such as www.toyata.com for Toyota®.

[3]Domain Name Hijacking” is where a defendant transfers the registration of a currently registered domain name without the permission of its original registrant, generally by exploiting vulnerability in the domain name registration system.  This is typically attempted by your disgruntled employees or vendors, or your competitors.  This is a form of identity theft.

[4]WIPO” is the abbreviation for the World Intellectual Property Organization that is a specialized international agency of the United Nations that is dedicated to safeguarding the rights of intellectual property owners.