Cybersquatters. They drive me absolutely crazy, and I’m not alone. Before I go-into ways in which startups can get their names back from squatters I wanted to clearly define what a Cybersquatter is.
First things first. There’s a big difference between “Domain Investors” and “Cybersquatters” – confusion between these two groups can lead you down the wrong path so it’s important to understand.
Cybersquatters buy existing trademarks and typos of existing trademarks in an effort to extort money from the company that has done all the work. Sounds sleazy? It is.
Domain Investors do not buy trademarks or typos. Instead they buy generic words that are not purchased with the intent of extorting other businesses, but are instead just raw land available, the land is just made of 1’s and 0’s.
So what can a startup do if a cybersquatter is squatting on their domain name?
What most startups don’t realize is that there is a completely legal way to reclaim your name. It’s called a UDRP and you can read more about it here. The way a UDRP works is relatively simple, if a cybersquatter is indeed squatting on your name, you can file a legal proceeding to get the name from them (forcibly) for typically under $5,000.
Here’s one thing to be very careful of. Remember, just like anyone can buy raw land in every single state in the US, domain investors can buy vacant domains that are available for anyone to own. If you slap a domain investor that has legitimately purchased the domain with a UDRP you could get hit with a RDNH (Reverse Domain Name Hijacking). As the name sounds you would actually be trying to hijack a domain from a legitimate owner and there are repercussions that come along with this action.
The key here is differentiating between a Cybersquatter and a Domain Investor. Domain Investors generally want to help startups, I know many who give startups very preferential pricing, flexible lease deals, and much more to help someone get the name they want. Cybersquatters on the other hand try to find what brand startups are going for and then buy a bunch of domains that match that name or are typos of it specifically to sell for as much as possible.
If you find that a Cybersquatter is going after your brand, hire a lawyer that specializes in domain names and go get them! Just remember that you will need to have a trademark and a good case against them, you can read the full list of UDRP requirements here. The more people that go after Cybersquatters the more these scum will think twice about squatting on your brand.
Just remember, if you want a generic .COM that has been registered since the 90’s you can’t UDRP, it’s a generic term and available to anyone just like the raw land people can buy probably five minutes from your house. Don’t try to steal domains from investors or you could find yourself being hit with a RDNH, which is the last thing you want.