Cybersquatting is a widespread practice on the Internet. It aims to take advantage of the notoriety of a brand or a person to attract users to its page. It is a process based on typing errors found in the URLs of the sites of the targeted domains. There are different types of cyber squat, all with different objectives, and more or less strong legal consequences. Among the companies targeted by this practice, we find names like Microsoft, eBay, and even Donald Trump.
Cybersquatting corresponds to the illicit use of domain names similar to those of trademarks. Any person, whether natural or legal, can be a victim:
- Trademarks for commercial purposes
- The names of famous individuals are subject to cyber attacks
This practice is reprehensible because it infringes a brand for the purpose of profit and online visibility. Cybersquatting brings together different concepts that can be used in a wide variety of fields. The name “cybersquatting” comes from the English word “squat”, which means “to squat”. In the field of ICT, the term refers only to the squat of domain names that have not been registered by their original owners.
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3 different types of cyber squats
As mentioned above, this process is the sum of many practices aimed at monopolizing the traffic of a domain. Here are the 3 most common types of online squatting.
One of the most common types of cybersquatting is typo squatting. Here, the cyber squatter voluntarily buys known domain names, with hire ghost writers. The idea is to build a fake website that visitors will visit when they make a typo. The longer a domain name, the greater the number of possible spellings. Thus, having a short name is a good practice to reduce the risks associated with cybersquatting.
Many companies have tackled the problem and reclaimed the rights to disputed domains. They redirect them to their main site, which allows them to obtain qualified natural traffic. The most common application of typo squatting is to display advertising links with the same theme as the target brand.
It is one of the most typical forms of cybersquatting. It consists of registering a domain, with the aim of reselling it to its legitimate owner. And apart from the simple domain name, there is also the problem of the TLD (top-level domains). Let’s take an example, the TLD for the site intotheminds.com is .com.
If a cyber-squatter registers your domain name before you can renew it, direct negotiation is necessary. It is therefore advisable to devote part of its budget to the preventive purchase of similar domain names.
The gripe sites enter into the debates on freedom of expression. Indeed, they exist to criticize all kinds of things:
- Some public figures: businessmen, politicians, top athletes, etc.
- Structures: companies, organizations, political parties, etc.
The American Reverend Jerry Falwell paid the price in 2005: it was the Luparello v. fall well. Indeed, the fallwell.com site used his misspelled name to refute homophobic accusations. Following a complaint by Jerry Falwell against Christopher Luparello, justice will give reason to the cyber squatter. For good reason, no commercial element appeared on the misspelled site, so it did not infringe any brand.
The cyber squat
The field of possibilities is vast for squatters. This is why it is necessary to intervene upstream and downstream to maintain control over its brand image.
Pay more attention to domain names similar to yours
As a general rule, one must first check whether the domain name leads to a website. If the domain name is for “sale”, or “under construction” then it is certainly a cyber-squatter. This also applies to pages that are primarily comprised of advertisements for products/services related to your brand.
Get in direct contact with the owner of the problem domain
Before drawing any conclusions, contact the domain name holder. Determine if there is a logical explanation for the use of the domain name, or if the registrant is willing to sell you the name. Sometimes the domain registrant’s goal is not cybersquatting. Therefore, before going to court, you should consider speaking directly with the domain owner.
Register the brand to prevent any risk of cyber squat
As soon as possible, register the brand of the company. Only trademark owners are protected. This is essential to be guaranteed to obtain regulatory protection. Today, there are brand protection services to take care of the administrative formalities:
Let’s end this article by mentioning 2 known cases that have shaped the face of cybersquatting. The examples of Microsoft and Donald Trump testify to a surprising reality. Indeed, the biggest companies and personalities of this world are not immune to cybersquatting campaigns.
Microsoft facing a young student
Mike Rowe created MikeRoweSoft.com in 2003 to market his web design services. He did this because of the phonetic pun that sounded like “Microsoft”, but since the domain could be phonetically confused with Microsoft.com, the big company demanded that he transfer the domain name. After a major public backlash against the company, an out-of-court settlement was reached.
Overnight, the case made international headlines. Rowe’s site received 250,000 hits in 12 hours and was so overwhelmed with traffic that it had to be moved to a new service provider, who volunteered to host the site for Proofreading and Editing Services. The case will be concluded on an amicable agreement. Among other things, the Canadian student will receive an Xbox console, the price of tranquility and control for Microsoft.