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How To Identify a Privacy Protected Domain Registrant

Mallory King - January 19, 2020 - Cybersquatting Law, Domain Name Trademark Issues

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What is a Registrant?

A domain name registrant is a “person, company or entity who owns or holds a domain name.” A registrant is responsible purchasing and registering a domain name and typically determines what use will be made of the same. As the owner of domain names, registrants can be liable for a variety of different legal issues arising from that domain name, such as copyright infringement, trademark infringement, and cybersquatting. While monitoring and protecting your brand, you may encounter a domain name that is infringing your intellectual property, making it necessary to contact the domain name’s registrant. But what if you the registrant is privacy protected and you can’t identify who the registrant is?

Privacy Protection

Domain name registrant information used to be more commonly available online through WHOIS searches, but with privacy laws such as the GDRP taking effect, public registrant information has dwindled significantly. Registrants may also opt for privacy protection services, either through their domain name’s registrar or another third-party service. The anonymity of registrants often creates roadblocks in contacting the individuals behind infringing domain names to assert legal leverage.

How can I contact a Privacy-Protected Registrant?

There are a few different routes for contacting a privacy-protected registrant in order to notify them about your intellectual property rights that are being infringed by an aspect of that registrant’s domain name. These include:

  • A Privacy-Protected Email. Sometimes, the privacy protected service will create a unique e-mail for the registrant, typically including the domain name as part of the email (i.e. “domainname@privacy.com”). This email usually goes directly to the registrant.
  • Registrar Contact Form. Registrars will typically provide contact forms on their website that can be filled out and sent to the registrant of a particular domain name.
  • Website Contact Information. Depending upon what use is being made of the domain name at issue, sometimes there are general info e-mail addresses listed on the website or there are contact forms offered. If this information is available, it is always wise to attempt sending notice through these routes as well.
  • Notice to the Registrar and Host. Both registrars and hosts of domain names provide abuse email contacts on their websites, which can be used to submit notice about intellectual property infringement or other illegal use being made of a domain name for which they have a customer. Registrars and Hosts will pass the legal notice on to the registrant, who will ideally comply with demands contained therein.

What if the Registrant Never Responds?

Sometimes, despite the best efforts to get ahold of a privacy-protected domain name registrant, the registrant never acknowledges your legal notice and continues to make the infringing use of the domain name. In circumstances like these, it may become more economically logical to pursue an Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (“UDRP”) proceeding against the registrant via WIPO or Forum, which can result in the transfer of the domain name away from the registrant. One caveat of the UDRP, however, is that the domain name must be confusingly similar to your trademark and there must be some bad faith use occurring on the domain name for it to be eligible for a transfer decision. A UDRP decision will also reveal the identity of the domain name’s registrant, which can be valuable information to have moving forward.

Experiencing Issues with a Brand Infringing Domain Name?

Are you aware of a website and/or domain name that is infringing your brand, violating your copyright, or cybersquatting on your trademark? The attorneys at Traverse Legal have experience in protecting and enforcing our client’s rights by contacting privacy-protected registrants of infringing domain names. Give us a call today to explore how we might be able help.

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