There is nothing more natural and at the same time more annoying than the notion of bandwagon. As soon as something becomes “the thing” everyone wants a piece of it and this can often be quite problematic. And the latest trend everyone’s trying to cash in on is Cybersquatting.
For those of you who don’t know, Cybersquatting is the practice of registering brand names of reputed companies as Internet domains for the intention of selling them later at a profit.
Another similar problem that is even trickier to solve is username squatting. Username squatting is the practice of registering brand names of reputed companies as user names in popular sites.
Spammers, will often try to find a way to exploit a renowned brand by trying to incorporate its name into their domain. However, while wicked men plot to tear down the online civilization, forces of order are not at idle either.
Damage to brand image
Even though it is easy for anyone to differentiate between an original brand page and a work of a cyber-squatter, most people simply won’t care to do a thorough examination.
One of the best example of this was when website FreeLegoPorn.com started posting pictures with inappropriate videos featuring Lego characters. Even though any vigilant person could tell that this is not Lego’s work, the damage had already been done.
If you do a Google search you can find hundreds of cases like this where brands had to go to extreme lengths to rectify the situation. Check this link for some more interesting examples.
A hit to your brand name is one thing but there is a problem even more serious than simple name borrowing.
Hackers and cybersquatters sometimes create similar domain names and even copy the entire web page layout in order to trick people. This way, they can steal usernames and passwords from visitors and apply them at the real site.
So far, the greatest problem that actual brand owners have with cybersquatting is that these phony sites are so numerous they simply cannot all be removed. When you remove one ten more pops up. Some of these decoys remain up even a full year after they are officially reported.
Legal means to fight cybersquatting
First you need to identify whether the question is about simple trademark infringement or cybersquatting. The difference between these two is quite significant since trademark infringement is a simple unlawful use of certain mark, logo or symbol. On the other hand cybersquatting is a violation of business’s right to exclusively use its brand online.
This being said, Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act (or ACPA) which was voted by the congress in late 1999, facilitates the process of recognizing sites which are results of cybersquatting.
Protecting yourself from Cybersquatting
As you can see, law is always on brand owner’s side, however legal action can often be quite slow. For this reason it is crucial to do everything that is in your power to protect your online business.
One of the simplest and by far the most effective steps here are to choose several top-level domains and create a page on all of them. Reserving a name on several domains like .com, .org or one of other top tier domains like .me domain, might be surprisingly effective.
Think of username squatting too. Even if you’re not planning to be active on them its a good idea to reserve your name in upcoming social media and social sharing sites.
Other than that what the brands can do is be vigilant and try to act on cybersquatting as soon as possible. You can set up Google alerts for your brand or even use some brand mention tool for better results.
Preparing for the worse
The bigger your brand gets, the more hate you will accumulate, it is just the way things are. This will lead to people bashing you online and trying to hurt your reputation. The best way to deal with this is to always be prepared for the worst.
Try to come up with the most probable and most common insulting names and wordplay’s for your company and reserve those names before anyone else does. You never know when an angry competitor or former employee will decide to do something this drastic. This is why you always need to stay one step ahead of them.
In order to succeed in any business, you need to invest a lot of hard work and sacrifice. Because of this, it would be more than foolish to leave it all at the mercy of those that wish you harm.
As always in life, it is up to you to protect what is rightfully yours or in this case, your business and your domain. As Roman poet Ovid once said “Happy are those who dare courageously to defend what they love.”