Domain names are unique addresses on the internet used to identify websites. E-mail is sent and web pages are found through the use of domain names. Without the domain name, a computer would have no idea where to look for a web page, and e-mail routers would not be able to send e-mail. Of course, domain names are more than just addresses, since they can be selected by the “addressee” and are usually closely associated with a particular service or product.
The disputes that arise over domain names involve “second level” domain names. The second level name is the name directly to the left of the top-level domain name in an Internet address. For instance, in the address “www.microsoft.com”, the second level domain name is “Microsoft”.
Because of the increasing popularity of the Internet, companies have realized that having a domain name that is the same as their company name or the name of one of their products can be an extremely valuable part of establishing an Internet presence. When a company finds that the domain name corresponding to their corporate name or product trademark is owned by someone else, the company can either choose a different name or fight to get the domain name back from its current owners.
If someone has registered a domain name which is the same or confusingly similar to your trademark or business name, you may be able to have that domain name transferred to you under the Uniform Domain-Name Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP).
The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) is responsible for coordinating the Internet system of unique identifiers, such as domain names. ICANN accredits domain name registrars, who provide domain registration services to the public. Such registrars agree to follow the UDRP.
The UDRP provides that in order for a Complainant to recover a domain name through the UDRP process, the Complainant must show, the following three elements:
- The domain name registered by Respondent is identical or confusingly similar to a trademark or service mark in which you have rights; and
- Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the domain name; and
- The domain name has been registered and is being used in bad faith.
Determining whether each of the three elements above should be left to an experienced attorney as developments may impact the way each element is interpreted.
Contact MARKS IP Law Firm attorney experienced in domain name disputes and cybersquatting law to evaluate your options.