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Question: I noticed that a competitor is using my name and trademark in a domain name on the internet. Is there anything I can do?
Answer: The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) has a Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP). The UDRP sets forth a dispute resolution policy that allows you to dispute a claim to a domain name by following the ICANN UDRP. The UDRP governs generic Top Level Domains (gTLD) such as .com, .net, .org, .biz, .info, .name, and the hundreds of new gTLDs that are currently being reviewed for approval (such as .food, or .restaurant, etc.)
Under the UDRP, for example, a domain name registrant is required to participate in a mandatory administrative proceeding if the domain name is identical or confusingly similar to a trademark or service mark in which the complaining party has rights. The domain in dispute must be identical to or confusingly similar with the name, trademark, or service mark in which you have rights. Second, the domain registrant must have no legitimate right or interest in the disputed domain name. “Legitimate right or interest” may include the domain registrant using or intending to use the domain name in conjunction with a bona fide offering of goods or services before the registrant is aware of the dispute. Third, the disputed domain must have been registered and used in bad faith. Bad faith can include diverting users to other sites by creating a likelihood of confusion; offers of sale of the domain name for an amount that is greatly in excess of the registrant’s out of pocket expenses; registrant has multiple domains registered; or being difficult to contact or untraceable.
Of course, you could also sue the domain registrant for trademark infringement, unfair competition, passing off, or defamation. The best defense to this type of “cyber-squatting” is purchasing all possible domain names for your brand, common misspellings of your brand, and all “gripe site” alternatives, such as domainsucks.com. You should become aware of the new gTLDs that will be coming on line in the coming months and years and secure the same domain names with the new extensions.
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