With the advancement of technology, being able to be at the front of online consumer searches can be of great financial significance. As a result, companies have invested significantly to not only protect their brand names, logos and ideas but also in protecting the technological homes in which their websites will be housed, their domain names.
Considering the commercial and reputational significance of domain names, it is no wonder that some opportunistic individuals are always on the look out for prominent companies that have failed to secure registered domain names for their companies. It is the unauthorised registration of such domain names that is known as cybersquatting.
Such tactics are often deployed in the hope of then being able to sell these domain names back to the original company for a large financial sum. However, such tactics are not always for financial gains as those that follow The Apprentice would have noted. Mike Soutar’s efforts to go out of his way to purchase the domain names relating to a finalist’s business was not just hilarious, but it also highlighted the importance of brand protection not just in the ‘real’ world but also within the virtual world.
The law relating to cybersquatting
Although there is no specific legislation relating to cybersquatting in the UK, there have been several cases that have identified the UK’s position on this matter. That position is clear, cybersquatting can be challenged either as trade mark infringement or, more commonly, as a claim for passing off (where one party attempts to benefit from the goodwill of another through misrepresentation).
However, action relating to cybersquatting is not always simple. It may be that the infringing party is based abroad, they may not be accessible or accommodating. Such action against infringements can often be expensive and time consuming. So, whilst the law does not appreciate the act of cybersquatting, it can be difficult to actually enforce action against such squatters.
What can you do?
We would advise that you are always pro-active in protecting your brand. Whether that means trade mark registration, design right registration or domain name registration, these investments serve to protect the very existence of your business. Failing to do so during the early stages of your business can be devastating and so consider your options from the outset and plan accordingly.
We can assist in drawing out a plan for the protection of intellectual property rights relating to your business and advise you on which matters require immediate priority, as opposed to those that may be able to wait until your business has generated further revenue for you to invest. Get in touch with firstname.lastname@example.org if you require any help in this regard.
Written by Mohammad Khan – Solicitor
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