July 24, 2019
Millions of websites populate the Web right now, all with unique domain names. With such a crowded avenue, you may stumble upon someone who already owns and operates a domain name for which you own the trademark. It is possible that they are using it to disrupt your business by some means.
If you’re facing this kind of situation, then you may be experiencing what is known as a domain dispute. This refers to a procedure wherein you can appeal to an independent arbiter via the Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP), which primarily aims to assist trademark holders claim the domains they have the right to own.
In this post, we’ll take a look at the concept of domain disputes and talk more about UDRP in general. Then we will discuss what a brand monitor can do to help you in such an instance.
Learning About Domain Disputes
A domain dispute happens when several parties are claiming the right to operate a specific domain name, typically those with TLDs like .com, .net, and .org.
A common example of this is when a person uses a domain whose trademark is owned by another. This can be considered an instance of cybersquatting, which you can learn more about here. In such a scenario, the accused could have purchased the domain knowing that it is tied to a certain brand in order to drive more traffic to his website.
Some individuals also engage in so-called typosquatting wherein they secure a domain that is very similar to that owned by a popular brand. Such a domain could only slightly differ in spelling, for instance. One example of this was when a popular phishing website utilized a variation of the google.com domain that eventually received a lot of traffic from users who were actually trying to reach the search engine.
There are many reasons why people would choose to engage in the above-mentioned activities. Obviously, money is a major factor. You can, after all, sell a domain you managed for a profit before its trademark holder had a chance to secure it.
Yet there are also domain disputes that arise due to far more malicious intentions. For instance, a person could purchase a domain to compete with, inconvenience, or even worse, impersonate a certain company.
That is what domain disputes are for. They allow trademark holders to contest the ownership of domains, especially if these are being held and operated by another whose aim is to hurt another party.
How Does a Domain Dispute Work?
In order for domain owners to proceed with a dispute, the UDRP was created. This policy was made by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) to settle concerns between at least two parties claiming to be the rightful owner of a particular domain.
You can file a UDRP to begin the dispute process if someone is using what you believe is a domain name that infringes your trademark or was purchased in bad faith.
Although the term may seem subjective, “bad faith” is actually a crucial factor in determining the outcome of a UDRP proceeding. It is particularly useful in cases of typosquatting and cybersquatting or even scenarios where the current domain holder appears to be intentionally disrupting or inconveniencing the trademark owner.
Bad faith could also refer to instances wherein the domain owner uses a trademark to profit. For example, if you were able to purchase the domain name amazon.net and used it to bring in traffic to your e-commerce website, then this is clearly a case of bad faith.
But there are also cases where a disputed domain is bought without the intent of causing harm. This can happen when the owner has a legal reason for using the domain. One example is when there are two businesses with the same name. This can also include cases wherein the domain owner doesn’t operate the domain commercially.
Whenever a domain dispute is initiated, an independent arbiter that is accredited by the ICANN will oversee the case. You should keep in mind that these arbiters can only settle disputes that have to do with TLDs that are registered with the ICANN. Furthermore, resolving certain disputes through the UDRP process may not be enough. A person may need to engage in additional agreements with the other party or settle the matter in court.
Lastly, some countries do not follow the rules set by the UDRP. They instead have a different way of handling such matters. That is why it’s important for you to know what policies and rules are in place in your region before deciding to file a domain dispute.
What Can a Brand Monitor Solution Do?
Experts suggest that trademark owners shouldn’t simply rely on reactive measures to remedy concerns. Since getting into disputes can be time-consuming and costly if they are taken to court, it might be a good idea to register as many domain name variations of your trademark as possible. However, this can also be expensive, especially for startups and small businesses which are on a tight budget.
A third approach can instead be taken with the help of domain name monitoring tools. There are software nowadays that lets trademark holders keep track of specific keywords associated with their brands. They do so by proactively monitoring recently registered and newly expired domains related to their search terms. If any changes are detected such as the registration of a new domain with any of the user’s listed keywords or their variations, the owner receives notifications right away.
With this kind of feature, brand owners will be able to maintain an up-to-date list of all the name variations they are interested in. They are informed immediately if someone is trying to infringe their trademarks and act on it before the perpetrators can profit off their brands. Aside from monitoring keywords related to their companies, users can also choose to include those related to their competitors – effectively letting them keep an eye on what their rivals are up to.
Some brand monitors also have a typo feature, which works just like the keyword tracking feature but with an extra kick. It adds a wide range of possible misspelled versions of a domain name to monitoring lists. This allows users to extend their monitoring and prevent typosquatting and homograph attacks.
Although registering every single domain name variation is a reasonable choice to prevent infringement, it simply isn’t a valid option for many small businesses today. Well-established companies may be able to do so but the majority of startups often don’t have the budget for this undertaking. Instead, what SMBs can do is to employ a more cost-effective alternative in the form of a brand monitor software.
With this type of online brand protection, users can keep track of keywords associated with their trademarks and identify cases of cybersquatting and typosquatting before they turn for the worst. The findings can then be used to file a UDRP domain name dispute.
As a brand owner, it is your job to safeguard your trademark and maintain a positive reputation if you wish to succeed in your ventures. By using domain research monitoring tools, you can protect and enforce your digital rights far better and ensure your business’s success.
Jonathan Zhang is the founder and CEO of Threat Intelligence Platform (TIP) — a data, tool, and API provider that specializes in automated threat detection, security analysis and threat intelligence solutions for Fortune 1000 and cyber-security companies. TIP is part of the Whois API Inc. family which is a trusted intelligence vendor by over 50,000 clients.