Brandjacking, or domain hijacking is an all too common crime on the Internet. Each week, nearly 3,500 domains are hijacked from rightful owners. If left unchecked, this can seriously impact the value of your trademark, as well as your company's bottom line.
Brandjacking, the unauthorized registration or use of a trademark in a domain for competitive purposes, occurs when a third party registers a domain name that infringes upon or otherwise violates the rights of a trademark owner. Domain hijacking may take many different forms and creative ways to steal are discovered daily. Several of the most flagrant abuses occur where:
- Expiring domains: An expiring domain can be snapped up by computer software programs trolling for expired domains. While most registries offer a “grace period” to recover the domain, the fine print of the Registration Agreement may allow the registry to resell the domain without honoring the grace period.
- Stolen Registrations: Theft of domains occurs in these cases when the domain is illegally transferred without consent of the domain owner through deceptive means.
- “Revenue Redirect” Landing Pages: While preemptively registering variations of your main domain, such as .net or .org, is a good insurance policy, forwarding these unused domains to the main URL will further secure against “revenue redirect.”
If your domain is is victim of domain hijacking, a trademark registration is required in order to bring a Uniform Domain Name Dispute (“UDRP”). The UDRP was created as a speedy, efficient alternative to costly litigation, and can be filed only with ICANN-approved arbitration centers, two of which include the World Intellectual Property Organization (“WIPO”), and the National Arbitration Forum (“NAF”).
The following check list will help insure your business is prepared:
- Register important trademarks, particularly those which rely upon one or more domain names containing the “trademark,” insuring the ability to act quickly you encounter theft of domains.
- Consider a domain watch service.
- Calendar renewal of registered domains instead of relying solely upon renewal notices from domain registrars.
- Select automatic renewal options with reputable registrars, and consolidate all domains with one reliable registrar.
- Keep separate administrative and technical contact information current for each domain.
- Update credit card information when they expire.
- Review the status of “preemptively” registered domains, such as .org, .net, etc. to make certain they have not been “parked.” When registering domains, make certain to select options preventing the registrar from using this tactic.
In today's world a brand is more than the name of the product. It includes the domain names in which the brand or trademark is included, no matter what the variation.