With the globalization of the Internet, businesses have realized the value in registering their names or their trademarks as domain names to prevent “cybersquatting” and trademark infringement. Some well-publicized examples of domain name disputes to prove this point include:
- Candyland.com: an adult entertainment provider originally registered the candyland.com domain name. Hasbro, which owned the candyland trademark, sued the adult entertainment provider for the domain name and now owns the domain.
- Micros0ft.com: Zero Micro Software registered the micr0soft.com domain name with a zero in place of the second ‘o’. After Microsoft filed a protest, Zero Micro Software ultimately abandoned the domain. Vision Enterprises of Roanoke, TX then registered the domain, and it expired in 2007.
- Peta.org: The “People Eating Tasty Animals” organization obtained the peta.org domain name. To the disdain of the “People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals,” the domain name was suspended. Today, however, the domain name is in the hands of the “People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals” organization.
Recognizing the potential of social media and/or social networking websites to serve as tools to enhance their businesses, businesses have also taken to develop their online presence on social sites such as Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, and YouTube. It is therefore becoming all the more important for businesses to be proactive in protecting their valuable IP assets in the age of social media.
Seeking trademark protection is merely the first step for savvy businesses. Businesses would do well to register all of their trademarks as domains or as user names, page names, and group names with every social media site. As an example, Facebook allows its users to register URLs for their accounts that follow the format http://www.facebook.com/yourusername. IP-savvy businesses should register each of their trademarks as separate user names. Businesses should then implement monitoring services to detect instances of infringement.
If, however, another party already has a domain, user name, page name, or group name that may infringe on your trademark, it is essential to understand the remedies that are available to you. When disputes over a domain name occur, an attorney may assist you to bring the domain dispute to arbitration pursuant to the Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Procedures (UDRP) of ICANN. Parties may also turn to the courts, for more serious issues, by bringing federal claims of cybersquatting in a United States District Court pursuant to the Anti-cybersquatting Consumer Protection Act (ACPA).
When a party violates your intellectual property on a social media website, the social media website may have internal dispute resolution mechanisms in place to report instances of infringement. The caveat, however, is that the website will typically attend to such complaints as they see fit. If the internal dispute resolution mechanism proves insufficient to address your needs, your intellectual property rights may also be enforced through more traditional dispute resolution mechanisms such as a cease and desist letter and/or litigation. Contact Maxey Law Offices to help you build and maintain your business’ online presence.