The internet as we know and love it today is an indispensible part of our everyday lives. The internet is a source for information that can be used for all sorts of legitimate purposes by people all around the world. However, the internet is also a hotbed of deceit and users who are out to take advantage of the unsuspecting hoards.
Among some of the biggest issues online are identity theft, fraud, spam, and cybersquatting. As more people are looking to make a buck online, cybersquatting has become a significant issue for the organizations that hear complaints when trademarked names are used in domain names for websites.
Reuters reports that 2008 was a banner year for cybersquatting complaints and legal action. Cybersquatting occurs when a person or company registers a domain name that uses a trademarked word or name in an attempt to get web surfers to come to their website. Celebrities have found that cybersquatters are also registering their names.
Reuters reports that in 2008 companies like RIM, eBay, Google, and more filed complaints concerning cybersquatting. Actress Scarlett Johansson also found her name in use by cybersquatters. The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) reportedly handled 2,329 cases via its dispute process for website names.
ICANN is readying new domain name extensions, which will make more room for website names and open the door for increased cybersquatting at the same time.
WIPO director General Francis Gurry said in a statement, "The creation of an unknowable and potentially vast number of new gTLDs raises significant issues for rights holders, as well as Internet users generally."
Tim Berners-Lee, the father of the modern internet, said, "It would have been interesting to look at systems that didn't involve domains."
Gurry says that the WIPO is working with ICANN to formulate new pre and post delegation procedures to check proposed new suffixes in an attempt to stem future litigation resulting from cybersquatting. Cybersquatting is a problem for many corporations, like Microsoft, who vigorously defend their trademarks.
Microsoft has forced more than one website owner and cybersquatter to turn over their domain names when the domain name violates a Microsoft trademark. However, corporations at times abuse the system by forcing website owners who own domain names that are legitimate, but sound similar to a trademark to turn over their site as well.
Microsoft made some bad press for itself when it sued a man name Mike Rowe who owned a site called Mikerowesoft.com. Dell Computers also filed suit against a web designer named Paul Dell who owned a website called Dellwebsites.com in 2006. Dell Computer had allegedly offered to buy the DellWebsites.com domain name, but failed to complete the transaction. Dell later sued Paul Dell for allegedly committing an act of parasitism and trying to create confusion for buyers.
Dell computer sued Paul Dell for $120,000 in damages to Dell America, $60,000 to Dell France, and for an additional $600 for each instance of the word Dell being used on the Dellwebsites.com domain. In other words, Dell sued the man for using his own last name.