One of the top stories in today’s edition of The Gleaner involves a bit of cyber tit-for-tat in the political sphere. On August 24 this year, Donovan Nelson, a member of the People’s National Party (PNP) and communications adviser to finance minister Dr Peter Phillips, registered FromPovertytoProsperity.com as a domain name. This just happens to be the slogan of the Jamaica Labour Party’s (JLP) current campaign. In retaliation, the JLP registered portiasimpsonmiller.com as a domain name on September 20. It directs traffic to the JLP website.
What we have here is commonly referred to as ‘cybersquatting’ or ‘domain squatting.’ Cybersquatting generally refers to the practice of registering, selling or using a domain name with the bad-faith intent of profiting from the goodwill of someone else’s trademark. This often happens with the names of well-known persons as well, as we have seen with most of the candidates in the current race for the US presidency in 2016. Another example is the case of small Internet company that bought georgewbushlibrary.com for less than $10 after it expired, and then sold it back it to the library for $35,000. Typically, cybersquatters have no use for these domain names, except to resell them for profit.
Here are some facts about cybersquatting:
- One of the first cybersquatters on record is American Dennis Toeppen who, in the early 90s, registered the names of some very famous trademarks before the companies got around to it.
- Some cybersquatters practise domain name warehousing, which is the practice of ‘holding’ expired names instead of releasing them back into the public domain. Doing this enables the squatter to resell the domains to the previous registrant or a new registrant at a higher rate than the market price.
- A sub-category of cybersquatting is typosquatting, in which someone registers a domain name with a typo commonly associated with a major domain name, in an attempt to divert traffic to sites that benefit the registrant.
- The Anti-Cybersquatting Consumer Protection Act became a Federal law in the US in 1999, makes people who register domain names that are either trademarks or individual’s names with the sole intent of selling the rights of the domain name to the trademark holder or individual for a profit liable to civil action.
- There is no provision for dealing with issues of cybersquatting in Jamaica’s Cybercrimes Act, neither are such cases handled by the Jamaica Intellectual Property Office (JIPO). However, the World Intellectual Property Office (WIPO) is in partnership with the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), which developed the Uniform Domain-Name Dispute-Resolution Policy (UDRP). Under the policy, most types of trademark-based domain-name disputes must be resolved by agreement, court action, or arbitration before a registrar will cancel, suspend, or transfer a domain name. Cybersquatting disputes may be addressed by expedited administrative proceedings that the trademark holder initiates by filing a complaint with an approved dispute-resolution service provider.