What do you do when someone else has taken your trademark and used it in an Internet domain name? Just accept it, even if they’re offering competing products and services? Do you have to go to court and file a trademark infringement lawsuit? Fortunately, these questions all have the same answer: No. You don’t have to accept it, and there are faster and less expensive ways to force the cybersquatter to give up the infringing domain name.
CK&E recently demonstrated this by helping its client, the Manufacturers’ Agents National Association (commonly known as MANA) defeat a cybersquatter and force the squatter to transfer the “manaonline.com” domain name to MANA.
All domains ending in a generic Top Level Domain (gTLD) – such as .com, .org or .net – are automatically subject to ICANN’s Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy, an streamlined arbitration process referred to as UDRP. UDRP provides an efficient method for a trademark owner to resolve its rights to a domain name that uses a substantial part of the trademark or is otherwise confusingly similar to the trademark. Instead of going to court to sue for trademark infringement, the business owner can file a complaint online with one of several authorized arbitration providers, such as the National Arbitration Forum (NAF) or the Arbitration and Mediation Center of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). Through a process that is conducted entirely online, these arbitration providers are empowered to force a domain name registrar to transfer a domain to its rightful owner. This is especially useful if the cybersquatter is in some remote offshore location and cannot be reached by regular legal process, because the domain name registrars are always available and can be directed to transfer the domain name.
To force the transfer of a domain through UDRP, the business owner must show: (1) the domain name is confusingly similar to a trademark owned by the business; (2) the current registrant has no rights or legitimate interests in the domain name; and (3) the domain name has been registered and is being used in bad faith.
In the case in which CK&E helped MANA, another company called “Dvlpmnt Marketing” based out of Saint Kitts and Nevis, in the Caribbean, had registered the “manaonline.com” domain name – which was essentially identical to MANA’s “manaonline.org” Dvlpmnt had used the domain name to park a webpage featuring “pay-per-click” links to other websites offering services competing with those offered by MANA. Dvlpmnt owns tens of thousands of domains, and has been the subject of several NAF and WIPO proceedings in the past.
CK&E attorney Zachary Page initiated a Complaint with NAF on behalf of MANA, charging Dvlpmnt with cybersquatting by registering and maintaining in bad faith, and with no legitimate rights, the manaonline.com domain name that was confusingly similar to MANA, whose genuine website is found at manaonline.org. The different gTLD extensions, .com and .org, are legally insignificant in the UDRP process – effectively, the domain names were regarded as identical. After the UDRP hearing, the NAF Panel held:
“Considering the totality of the circumstances present here—including the similarity between the disputed domain name and Complainant’s domain name, and the content of the website to which the disputed domain name resolves—the Panel infers that Respondent was aware of Complainant when it registered the domain name and that Respondent is using the domain name in a manner intended to exploit confusion with Complainant’s website and service mark. These inferences are indicative of bad faith.”
A successful UDRP claimant generally has a choice to have the domain registration cancelled or to have the domain name transferred to the claimant. It is almost always better to have the domain name transferred, so that it cannot be taken by another cybersquatter in the future. CK&E is proud to have helped its client, MANA, successfully force the cybersquatter to transfer the manaonline.com domain name to MANA.