Cybersquatter Protection 101

Keep OutAny business with a valuable trademark has to worry about domain names and cybersquatting. This has become even more important with the sharp increase in generic top-level domains (gTLDs). Recently ICANN introduced more than 1300 new gTLDs. In this post and a few follow-on posts, I’ll talk about what businesses can do to protect their trademarks against cybersquatting.

The first key tool is the Trademark Clearing House, a centralized database of verified trademarks that is connected to all new top-level domains. A trademark owner can list its trademarks in one central database for a single fee, instead of having to list its brands with multiple domain registries during a new top-level domain’s sunrise period. A “sunrise period” is a pre-launch period of at least 30 days when a new gTLD is being introduced, during which trademark holders can register domain names before the general public has access. A trademark has to be validated through the Trademark Clearing House only once, and it can be used for any sunrise period for which it meets registry requirements. The most important takeaway here is that a trademark must be listed in the Trademark Clearing House in order to take advantage of the sunrise periods.

Another benefit is that if a third party applies for a domain name which matches a trademark in the database, the Trademark Clearing House will notify the applicant of the match at the point of registration. The applicant then has to acknowledge the rights of the trademark holder in order to continue with the registration, and the Trademark Clearing House notifies the trademark holder of the potentially infringing domain name.

Like everything in life, there is a cost. There are two fee structures, basic and advanced. The basic fee structure is for businesses that may only have one or two trademarks to list. The charge is $150 per trademark for one year, with reduced rates for multi-year registrations. The advanced fee structure is designed for owners of numerous trademarks. You get status points for each registration, and earn more status points for multi-year registrations. The number of status points earned determines how much you pay for each registration.

In future posts, I’ll discuss the Uniform Rapid Suspension (URS) system, the Uniform Domain Name Resolution Policy (UDRP), and the Donuts Domain Protected Marks List (DPML).

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