Not so long ago, many business people considered websites to be a minor and somewhat annoying form of marketing. However, digital presence is no longer an option for most businesses. While many companies still thrive on word-of-mouth recommendations from existing customers, an increasing number of people and companies find their suppliers for various products and services online.
Having a digital footprint is necessary for business growth. You need to have an established presence on most of the major social media platforms, such as Facebook and Twitter. You will also need to have a carefully developed website that helps bring potentially interested customers to your company.
Sometimes, when businesses moved to register their domain and develop a website, they learned that their company name or trademarked slogan has been targeted by a cybersquatter, also known as a domain squatter. These individuals hope to profit off of a company's reluctance to purchase a URL in the past.
Cybersquatting is almost like holding a website hostage
When the internet first became widely available, there were very few regulations and laws in place about consumer practices and websites. It didn't take long for a few unscrupulous people to realize that they could purchase domain names associated with famous individuals or major businesses.
They could hold these domains without developing them indefinitely, for a few dollars a year. The cybersquatter would then have the ability to charge an exorbitant amount for the URL they registered even if they had never done business under that name or a similar name. Companies, desperate for premium digital properties associated with their brand, would often pay thousands for a basic URL.
The potential for someone tarnishing a brand's reputation with a poorly created, virus-riddled or derogatory website was so serious that Congress eventually had to take steps to prevent this kind of abuse. They created the Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act, which aims to protect companies from someone registering a domain intentionally without plans to develop, only to resell the URL.
Trademarked names receive legal protections
It's important to understand that this act does not provide umbrella protection for any business name or individual name. Instead, it specifically protects any trademarked names, as well as the names of famous figures, such as celebrities.
The law only prohibits somebody from purchasing a URL to resell to another individual at a substantial profit, not any use of a similar name in a URL. However, if the person who holds the URL has no plan to develop it, it may be possible to take legal action against a cybersquatter.
If you have found your attempts to build an online presence related to a trademark name slowed because someone owns the website associated with your brand, you may need to take legal action.