* Trademarks vs. Domain Names

Trademark holders are winning 80% of their disputes with domain name registrants.

If you have registered a domain name recently, you’ve most likely agreed to the terms of the Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP), which was adopted in 1999 by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), a pseudo-governmental/pseudo-corporate (but, in any event, highly political) organization created in September 1998 to manage how domain names are registered (that’s the short story). If a dispute arises about who owns (or should own) a domain name, the domain name registrant has agreed to submit to a mandatory administrative proceeding.

The good news (for holders of registered federal trademarks) is that trademark holders are winning 80% of their disputes with domain name registrants. The bad news (for small businesses) is that the cost of the administrative proceeding (not including legal fees) is at least $1500. As such, a “gray market” has arisen for cybersquatters who will gladly sell you a cybersquatted domain name for $1499. So small businesses who have had their trademarks registered as domain names by cybersquatters have three bad choices: 1) do nothing, 2) buy the domain name from the cybersquatter, or 3) pay at least $1500 to try to get the domain name back via UDRP arbitration. So if you haven’t registered your trademarks, you should. And if you haven’t registered domain names corresponding to each of your registered trademarks, you should.

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