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Domain Name Dispute and Cybersquatting Lawyers

Are you being harassed, defamed, blackmailed or impersonated?

The illegitimate registration and use of a domain name

Cybersquatting occurs when a person or business registers a domain name which is likely to be confused with the name of a third party (whether an individual or a company) and this is done in bad faith.  In many instances, the motive might simply be to secure a vastly inflated premium for the transfer of the name. However, increasingly similar domain names are being registered to trade on the good name of the third party or to harass and defame them. 

Passing off

If a third party registers a domain name similar to your brand name, they could be gaining custom from your goodwill.  Consumers may think they are trading with you but are instead, trading with a competitor without your knowledge. The damage does not necessarily stop with the diversion of business.  If the product or services provided by the cybersquatter are of poor quality, irreparable damage could be done to your good name. 

There may be circumstances where a similar name is being used legitimately (for example, long established competitors having similar names).  A number of legal issues will need to be considered to establish whether there is a viable claim for passing off.  We can carry out this exercise for you.

A successful claim for passing off can result in the court ordering the transfer of a domain name.  The defendant may also be ordered to pay compensation for the damage suffered/loss of profits and/or an account of profits improperly made on the back of the claimant's goodwill. 

Harassment and defamation

Sadly it is becoming increasingly common for those engaged in a campaign of harassment to register a 'spoof' domain name to ridicule, humiliate, embarrass or libel their target(s).  Such websites can be particularly problematic where they achieve significant prominence on search engine results and are mistaken as the victim's genuine website.

For example, the fictional John Smith runs a small building and carpentry business.  He has a website at www.johnsmithbuildingandcarpentry.com.  John becomes involved in a dispute with a former customer David Jones over an unpaid bill.  Mr Jones is pursued in the county court for the unpaid amount and judgment entered against him.  Mr Jones becomes embittered and decides to 'get back' at Mr Smith.  He purchases the domain name www.johnsmithbuildingandcarpentry.co.uk.  Mr Smith does not notice this at first, but gradually the domain name begins to appear prominently on search engines.  The name is so similar to that of Mr Smith's legitimate website that prospective customers begin to click on it in error.  The spoof website contains defamatory and abusive content alleging the Mr Smith is a 'fraudster' and 'con-artist' who 'rips off his customers'.  A number of visitors will disregard Mr Jones' spoof website, but equally some will take the view that 'there is no smoke without fire' and decide to take their business elsewhere. 

In the above example, Mr Smith's actions may well amount to harassment, libel and malicious falsehood.  We have successfully represented a number of clients in such circumstances.

Classic cybersquatting

A more straightforward form of cybersquatting is the opportunistic purchase of a domain name connected with an established business or individual with the aim to sell the domain name to them at a premium, rather than to use it themselves.  For example, James Campbell might purchase the domain name www.johnsmithbuildingandcarpentry.com for £10 because he is aware that there is a business called John Smith Building and Carpentry.  Rather than using the domain name he contacts Mr Smith and offers to sell it to him for £1,000.  This form of cybersquatting was particularly prevalent around the turn of the millennium when many businesses did not have websites.  However, it still persists.

ICANN (the global organisation that governs domain names) has an established Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy which is intended to be deployed by recognised arbitration bodies to resolve disputes over domain names.  If a domain name has been registered in bad faith to profit from a third party's trademark or name it may be possible to secure its transfer via arbitration proceedings.  We can assist you in this process by instigating proceedings and filing submissions on your behalf.

How can our cybersquatting solicitors help?

  • Advising you on the merits of any prospective claim for passing off, trademark infringementharassmentdefamation, malicious falsehood and/or the misuse of private information
  • Advising you on the merits of arbitration
  • Drafting 'Case and Desist' letters
  • Drafting Letters of Claim
  • Issuing and conducting proceedings on your behalf
  • Commencing arbitration proceedings on your behalf and filing submissions
  • Seeking urgent interim injunctions where appropriate
  • Making submissions to intermediaries including search engines, hosting companies, registries and registrars

Contact Us

We offer fixed-fee preliminary consultations.  A consultation will help you understand the legal and practical issues relating to your case and allow you to make an informed decision about what action to take.

To arrange a consultation with one of our defamation lawyers, or to find out how we can support you, please send us an email, complete our online enquiry form or call us on 020 7183 8950. We have varied experience of revenge porn claims and can help you to resolve this tricky issue. Please send us an emailcomplete our online enquiry form or call us on 020 7183 8950.