Don’t Fall Victim to Typosquatting - Bring in the Big Guns
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If you own a website that has become a victim of typosquatting, you probably want the typosquatter to turn over the domain name and agree to never use it again. There is a procedure designed to help you accomplish this. The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) has a Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy that serves as an alternative to trademark lawsuits. It is handled by the National Arbitration Forum, which hears thousands of domain name disputes every year. A typical decision from this organization may run to about seven pages, and contain relatively little legalese. Typically, when a person signs up for a domain name, he or she agrees to resolve domain name disputes through this policy.
As the one bringing the complaint, you will have to prove three things:
- That the typosquatter’s domain name is confusingly similar to yours.
- That the typosquatter did not have any rights or legitimate interest in the domain name.
- That the typosquatter registered and used the domain name in bad faith.
If the typosquatter’s domain name is different from yours by only a letter or two, or a couple of letters being switched around, you probably have a strong case that the two names are confusingly similar. In the case of Google, Gridasov’s four domains were each different from Google’s by only one letter.
You will probably need to prove your own rights to your domain name. If it is the same as your business name, you can satisfy this by showing the date of your filing the name with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (as Google did), or possibly the date you registered the name of your business with your state. Obviously, if you have a trademark to your name, and you can prove it was filed before the typosquatter bought the domain in question, you have a stronger case.
If the typosquatter is hosting malware on his website, then that fact alone ought to be enough to prove that he is acting in bad faith. Otherwise, it goes without saying that you should save all of your communications with the typosquatter. One finding under the Google ruling that you might find comforting was that “Under the policy, typosquatting is itself evidence of bad faith registration and use of the disputed domain name and the Panel finds no reason to distinguish Respondent’s use of the practice in this instance.”
When you file for resolution under the Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy, it is common to request that the domain name in question be handed over to you. The typosquatter will be contacted and given a chance to respond to your complaint. They might respond, or they might not; in Google’s case, Gridasov did not respond, which effectively expedited matters for the search engine. Resolution may take anywhere from a few weeks to a few months, but that is typically faster than a court case.
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