On Cybersquatting, Product Safety and Trademark Protection
Cybersquatting occurs when a person registers an Internet domain name that incorporates a famous trademark and then “squats” on it until an opportunity arises to profit from ownership. Until the late ’90s, it was unclear whether existing U.S. trademark law prohibited this practice.
But in 1999, ICANN, the organization that functions as the de facto governing body of Internet infrastructure, rolled out a contractual method for resolving disputes over ownership of domain names. One of the current requirements for registering a domain name is that the registrant agrees to submit to an alternative dispute resolution process to determine whether it’s entitled to maintain a domain name that includes, or plays off, another company’s trademark. This process has greatly benefited trademark owners and provides a relatively quick (six to eight weeks) and affordable ($5,000 or less) means of recovering domain names.