Cybersquatting is the ugly-sounding name of an ugly, but borderline-legal, practice of registering a domain name with the intent to profit from the goodwill of a trademark belonging to someone else. The problem is, as is usually the case with gray laws, the proving of intent.
ICANN has the “Uniform Domain Name Resolution Policy”, which it applies as a sort-of rule-of-law for resolving cybersquatting cases. But you’re probably heard where their rulings are controversial, no? There does seem to be some huge corporations out there who win a lot of exclusive rights to domains that shouldn’t have anything to do with them, while small businesses are lucky if they can get their case heard at all.
Take the case of “Microsoft vs MikeRoweSoft” that was settled recently. This one is almost anyone’s call. On the one hand, there’s no way you could confuse the two domains when typing them into a web browser. On the other hand, Mike Rowe admitted that he’d done it as a joke. On another hand, even Microsoft spokesman Jim Desler admitted that they may have been too aggressive in their defense of the “Microsoft” trademark. The case got settled for what amounts to a treasure chest of party favors and Mike Rowe made some money off the deal, so all’s well that ends well?
In a world where we have Linux paper towels and MicroSoft laundry detergent, proving who has the rights to a particular trade name can be a slippery task, especially with the international market. Is anybody out there finding new sound-alike domains, such as those recently recovered by the group CitizenHawk?