What is Reverse Domain Name Hijacking?


Reverse domain name hijacking has become a significant security threat that is largely overlooked by the web hosting community. This form of domain theft involves copyright owners asserting expansive trademark rights in order to take ownership of a domain from its rightful owner. In most cases, this form of domain theft is actually practiced by larger companies that want to claim a domain name from a smaller company. The following information describes the process of ‘reverse domain name hijacking’, as well as some of the preventative and proactive measures you can take to protect your domain names from this occurrence.

How ‘Reverse Domain Name Hijacking’ Works

In the case of ‘reverse domain name hijacking’ the offending party will typically file a report in conjunction with the UDRP  (Uniform Domain-Name Dispute-Resolution Policy), which claims that the current domain owner registered the domain in violation of trademark rights. The goal in filing this report is to have the current domain ownership rights revoked and handed over to the offender.  Unfortunately, even though in many cases the larger companies are overstepping their trademark rights, most small companies do not have the funds or knowledge needed to defend themselves through any type of opposition.

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Why Do People ‘Reverse Hijack’ Domain Names?

Although many large companies have the financial resources to legitimately acquire virtually any domain name, it is often more desirable and affordable for them to simply seize a domain from a smaller company by abusing their pre-established trademark rights. The fact is, it is easier and cheaper to contract the assistance of a lawyer and have ‘professional’ documents sent to the deciding panel that will ultimately award the domain to the larger company.

Not only is it a more viable solution for larger companies, it is also a very safe way to steal a domain name. The worst that can happen to the offending party is that they would lose the dispute. As long as a small window for success remains, and there are no legal repercussions associated with ‘reverse domain name hijacking’, you can be assured that companies will continue to file fraudulent and unjust UDRP claims against rightful domain owners.

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How to Reclaim the Domain Name After it Has Been ‘Reverse Hijacked’

If you have the financial and legal resources, it is possible to file an action in court against the offending party, which states that your registration of the domain was lawful and in accordance with the Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act (ACPA). The ACPA is basically a law that serves to protect domain registrants from the outreaching and unjust claims of trademark owners, which could potentially lead to illegal monopolization in certain markets.

Sadly, even if the court case is ruled in your favor, you will not receive monetary compensation, as the ACPA is only intended to provide injunctive relief (which simply means you’ll be given back ownership of the domain). Larger companies know that most people will not take them to court, and if they do, the only thing that can happen is that the domain is given back to the original registrant, which is not enough to deter most companies from going after a desirable domain name. Until there are stricter penalties for ‘reverse domain name hijacking’, it is very likely that this trend will continue to grow.

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