David Mitnick is founder and president of DomainSkate.
The next few months will be a field day for cyber-squatters.
ICANN is introducing new extensions into the Domain Name System. These new extensions, as noted in detail in Jeremiah Johnston’s recent article on VentureBeat, will not only come in different languages like Chinese, Arabic, and Japanese, they will also include generic English words like .music, .green, .law, .web, and .store, along with brand names like .apple, .citi, and .NYC. That means thousands upon thousands of new domains will be available for the taking – and the hijacking.
The good news is that you don’t need a lawyer to wrestle your good name back from cyber-squatters looking to cash in on your brand or trademark.
In most cases, filing a “UDRP” is the easiest, cheapest, fastest and most effective way to deal with the problem. Every registered domain name is subject to a streamlined domain arbitration procedure called the Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP). It costs as little as $1,300 to file and can be decided in less than eight weeks. It’s the best solution when the critical issue is possession and use of a domain name that includes a trademarked property. There’s no discovery, no document production, and no deposition.
The UDRP has been around since 1999, but chances are you haven’t heard of it since it’s not widely known except among Intellectual Property specialists and large companies with sophisticated legal departments and access to outside counsel. In the last few weeks, the satellite television provider Dish Network filed a UDRP against the company Digital Satellite Connections, LLC over domains that use the term “Dishnet” and “Dish Network.” And California-based fitness company CrossFit, Inc. won a UDRP decision this week for 113 domains that include the CROSSFIT mark.
Small companies in the know are using UDRP too. Reliable Racing Supply, Inc. a ski equipment company based in Queensbury, NY filed a UDRP action over the domain name www.reliableracing.co. Reliable decided to file when it discovered the site was registered to another ski equipment company called Artech. Reliable Racing holds a federally registered mark for the name that has been in use since the 1980s and was registered in 1991.
Think your business or even your blog doesn’t need UDRP protection? Think again. If a cyber-squatter is hurting your name, your brand or your business, you could opt to hire a lawyer and file a lawsuit to deal with the problem. It could run well over $10,000 (which is below average for the typical cost of a lawsuit). It could take months or even a year to get a court date. And cyber-squatters do a lot more than just confuse Internet users and hold your brand name hostage – they can send malware and dupe loyal customers into divulging personal information.
If you don’t have an in-house attorney or dedicated outside IP counsel, have an intern learn about the UDRP process and monitor your name online. If something comes up, you can act quickly and at least start to consider your next step while knowing all your options. The important thing is to get started. The UDRP will provide your company with an effective way of protecting your name if push comes to shove — and in an ever-expanding Internet, the likelihood is that your business will need to push back at some point.