UN Agency Reports Rise in Cybersquatting

NEW YORK -- Cybersquatting cases hit a record high in 2008, according to a United Nations agency.

The World Intellectual Property Organization said Sunday it oversaw 2,329 cases regarding website names.

Those disputes ranged from celebrities, such as actress Scarlett Johansson, to the London football club Arsenal to the 2016 Olympics in Madrid to corporate claims coming from companies that include eBay, Google, Nestle, the BBC, Yale University and Research in Motion's BlackBerry, CNET reports.

With plans by Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers to launch more top-level domain name extensions next year, legal experts expect a flood of further cybersquatting in association with those domain names.

"Cybersquatting continues to be one of the biggest issues facing the adult industry and mainstream alike and don't think for a second that the rise in the number of reported cases is going to stop," adult industry attorney Corey D. Silverstein told AVN. "I guarantee that the numbers will grow again next year and that they will grow by a larger margin. Keep in mind that the published statistics come from reported incidents; the number of incidents that go unreported cannot even be estimated."

A major problem is that many individuals and businesses feel helpless when it comes to cybersquatting and as a result, take no action.

"This is the absolute wrong approach and that mindset needs to be changed," Silverstein said. "In the United States in particular there are very good laws with extremely harsh penalties for both copyright and trademark infringement. While having a proper copyright, trademark or patent is the appropriate measure to take in order to best protect you, even without utilizing a formal intellectual property licensing tool, there are options. You do not have to be a victim -- there are options."

Silverstein told AVN Online it's essential that website and domain name owners contact an attorney to protect their intellectual property. 

"Do not believe for a second that your intellectual property won't be stolen and don't think that it hasn't already been stolen," he said. "It is essential that you take all options available to protect yourself."

The United States Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act is embodied in the Lanham Act, Silverstein explained. The Act imposes liability on one who "registers, traffics in or uses" a domain name that infringes on a trademark.

The Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy defines bad faith registration and use of a domain name as the registering of the domain name for the primary purpose of disrupting the business of a competitor or intentionally attempting to attract, for commercial gain, Internet users to your website, by creating a likelihood of confusion with another's mark. 

Should an individual or individuals violate these laws, the complainant could be entitled to a preliminary and permanent injunction, money damages, compensation equal to the owner's profits, a court order that the owner transfer the domain name, attorney fees and other damages. 

"There are harsh penalties for those found liable for cybersquatting," Silverstein said. "Don't be a victim - utilize the legislation that has been created to protect you.

"Cybersquatting is a serious problem and hopefully other countries -- who haven't already done so -- will follow suit and pass laws created to protect intellectual property, and geared at the Internet," he added. "The moral of the story is to correctly file your trademark or copyright and don't be afraid to go after anyone who unlawfully infringes upon your rights."