Reverse domain name hijacking has proven to be one of the biggest problems in the domain name industry today. Most importantly, it is an issue that can have a direct impact on your internet identity and web presence.
What is Reverse Domain Hijacking?
Typically associated with cyber squatting, reverse domain hijacking describes a practice where a company that owns a trademark exercises its trademark rights in attempts to secure a domain name from the legitimate holder. This is something that has become all too common these days. More and more, we are seeing small companies and entrepreneurs registering domain names that are also targeted by bigger companies. In hopes of intimating the little guy, these big spenders have been known to cry the UDRP (Uniform Domain-Name Dispute Resolution Policy) and engage in legal battles many smaller companies simply can’t afford.
While domain disputes often boil down to a lot of specifics, it is a known fact that several larger companies rely on their financial resources to wrestles names from the grips of legitimate owners. Why has this practice become so widespread? This is because the UDRP does not contain any meaningful literature stating that overzealous and determined trademark owners cannot file complaints. And despite the monstrous label of reverse domain name hijackers, nothing to this point has been enough to deter the efforts of corporate giants. As long as these companies continue to enjoy publicized measures of success, such claims could be filed for some time to come.
Fighting Back Against the Bullies
So, what do you do when the big bad corporate bullies come knocking and threatening to seize your domain? Well, if they have the resources along with the trademark, the company can file an action in court and make the claim that the registration or utilization of the domain is not considered unlawful on their part in accordance to the ACPA (Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act). This legislation was put in place to balance the rights of domain name holders and trademark owners respectively. Most importantly, it was enacted to address the growing problem of reverse domain name hijacking. However, there is only so much the ACPA can do for you. For instance, you can only win back your domain name as the legislation does not cover any financial damages against the trademark owner. Equipped with ample resources, this is one of the main reasons trademark owners will continue their abusive practices and keep the pressure on smaller companies. Unfortunately, even though you can leverage the ACPA to take action in court, very few domain owners have a wallet sizable enough to challenge a bigger company for the domain name they have legitimate rights to.
Change is Needed
There has been much debate on whether the ACPA should be amended to create a greater balance between the rights of domain name and trademark owners. However, implementing such a change would require the full cooperation of many parties including the domain and trademark holders who already are not seeing eye to eye, and quite possibly a few government bodies as well. Unfortunately, until the playing field is leveled, trademark owners will continue to pull out their big wallets and strip domain names away from less fortunate, but legitimate registrants.