When you’re starting a new business, one important thing to think about is setting up your website.

Obviously, the first thing you’d do is search the web to see if the domain name you want is  available.

Your domain name is likely something you’d want to keep consistent with your business name, as it allows internet users to easily identify your brand. 

Cybersquatters capitalise on this and purchase your desired domain name before you have the chance to do so. They do this in the hopes that you’ll purchase the domain name from them so they can make a profit, or because they want to prevent people from finding your legitimate website. 

If you believe someone is cybersquatting on a domain you want to use, there are several actions you can take. We’ll take you through these below. 

What Is Cybersquatting?

Cybersquatting is a term used to describe the registration of a domain name to profit from a trademark belonging to someone else. 

A cybersquatter can register domain names similar or identical to existing trademarks owned by individuals and businesses. 

They can mislead users by directing them to a website containing content which is unrelated to your business and can be defamatory.

They also make large profits by auctioning off rights to the domain name to the highest bidder.

Whatever the intention, cybersquatters have the potential to cause reputational damage to the rightful owner of the domain name. 

What Is “Accidental Cybersquatting”?

There are some situations in which someone might be cybersquatting without actually intending to do so. 

For example, they may have purchased a domain name without doing any research into existing trade marks or businesses using the same name. 

Before taking formal action against a potential cybersquatter, it is important to figure out if they are cybersquatting purposefully or if they’re instead engaged in “accidental cybersquatting”.

You can figure this out by searching the domain through WHOis.net to find the contact details of the person holding the domain. If you get in touch with the domain owner and learn that they’re unintentionally squatting, they may let you purchase the domain name from them at the same price they originally paid for it.

What Action Can I Take Against Cybersquatters?

If you find that someone is cybersquatting on a domain name you’d like to use for your business, there are a couple of actions you can take. 

These actions depend on the type of domain name which you would like to claim. 

Claiming An International Domain 

International domain names include URLs ending in either “.com” or “.org”.

If you find a cybersquatter on your international domain name, you can make a written complaint to the Internet Corporation of Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN).

ICANN uses dispute resolution methods to help resolve domain disputes. 

If your complaint is successful, ICANN will transfer the registration for the domain name to you. 

Claiming An Australian Domain 

Australian domain names generally end in either “.com.au” or “.info.au”. In March 2022, the “.au” domain name was also introduced.

The .au Domain Administration (auDA) is the regulatory body for .au domain names. However, if you wish to make a claim around someone infringing your IP rights or your domain name, you’d need to make a formal complaint. This process is in line with the .au Dispute Resolution Policy.

You can do this by lodging a dispute with either:

If you choose to make a formal complaint, you’ll have to establish three main things:

  • That the domain name is similar to a trade mark that you hold 
  • That the cybersquatter has no legitimate interest in holding the domain 
  • That the domain name was registered in used in bad faith

It’s important to ensure your written complaint to these providers is carefully drafted and properly addresses these three main points, as this will ultimately determine if the domain name can be transferred to you.

Alternatively, you can request to have the name cancelled so it is available for registration to the public again. Either way, it’s important that your application clarifies which outcome you would like should the complaint succeed.

auDA has a separate complaints process under the .au Licensing Rules. This is for situations where a licence does not meet the eligibility and allocation rules. It’s important to note, however, that this process is different to an IP dispute.

What To Take Away

If you believe someone may be cybersquatting, it’s important you take the correct steps to ensure that you get the best outcome for your business. 

Sometimes, it can be difficult to decide what the best path to take is if you want to bring action against a potential cybersquatter. 

Our lawyers are here to help!

If you have any questions about cybersquatting or are unsure if you’re a cybersquatter yourself, feel free to drop us a line at team@sprintlaw.com.au or give us a call on 1800 730 617. 

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