Cybersquatting on Personal Names

More and more people are familiar with traditional cybersquatting, which is the registration used for trafficking in the domain name corresponding to the trademark of another with a bad faith intent to profit from that trademark of another. However, cybersquatting also entails registration and use of personal names and as domain name. Although 15 USC 11 25 D, which is the anti cybersquatting consumer protection act statue, it is one that more trademark attorneys and domain attorneys are familiar with, there’s a separate statue dealing directly with cyber piracy protections for individuals. Namely, 15 USC 81 31 provides civil liability for any person who registers a domain name that consists with a name of another living person, or names substantially confusing or similar to that living person, without that persons consent, with a specific intent to profit from that name by selling the domain name financial gain to that person or any third party.

If someone has registered a domain name corresponding to your personal name, you may have options under both the ACPA and also the cyber piracy statue noted above. Although the ACPA traditionally requires the establishment of trademark rights, the cyber piracy statue does not. Instead, you simply need to establish that the domain name corresponds your personal name and the registrant registered it with a specific intent to profit from your name by selling the domain name for financial gain to you or any other third party. For example, if someone registers a domain name that corporates your personal name and places it for auction or otherwise makes it available for purchase, that may fall within the cyber piracy statue.

So what should you do in the event you discover you personal name is owned by someone else? You should first speak with a domain name attorney who can identify whether or not either the ACPA or the cyber piracy prevention statue applies. There may be defenses, such as legitimate use and or other fair use defenses that may make it unlikely that you would succeed. However, if in fact it appears that you have been the victim of cyber piracy, several options may be available first, a cease and desist letter that demands the domain name be transferred to you may be successful. The mere thought that a court may award injunctive relief, including the fourth abjured cancellation of the domain name or the transfer of the domain name to you along with costs and attorneys fees may force the registrant to simply turn over the domain. Alternately, the registrant may choose to try to negotiate with you, which may lead to various outcomes as well. In addition, you may simply choose to file either a UDRP arbitration or a lawsuit in federal court. None the less, an experienced domain name lawyer should be able to advise you when you discover that someone else has registered and or is using your personal name for their domain name.

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