Protect Your Brand Against Cyber Squatters on the Internet
Maybe you have heard that the Internet is about to drastically change. Maybe you have heard that by the middle of this year, domain names ending in .app, .web, .pizza, .shop, .hotel, .restaurant and over a thousand others will become available for public registration. These new extensions are called generic top level domains, or gTLDs.
If you are a brand owner and have given this any thought, you know that we are likely to see a cybersquatting frenzy like we did in the 90's. Computer geeks are likely to register domain names that begin with a brand name and end with the brand's industry. Some examples of cybersquatting that we might see are pappajohns.pizza, dillards.shop, westin.hotel or mcdonalds.restaurant. Cybersquatters may buy these domain names in hopes that brand owners will pay a premium to buy them back or with the intention of diverting Internet traffic to their own websites.
One protection for trademark owners is the Trademark Clearinghouse, which is operated by Deloitte and IBM. This is one of several rights protection mechanisms built into ICANN's new gTLD program. The Clearinghouse allows brand owners to submit their trademark data into one centralized database, prior to and during the launch of new gTLDs. The Trademark Clearinghouse opens on March 26 so that trademark holders can submit their trademark information to a centralized repository. By submitting your trademark to the Trademark Clearinghouse, you will have fulfilled the basic condition to be able to register your corresponding domain name during a pre-registration (or "Sunrise") period. In other words, you will get an opportunity to register domain names that match your trademark before the cybersquatters do. By registering with the Trademark Clearinghouse, you will also have the option to be notified when someone registers a domain name that matches your trademark.
The Trademark Clearinghouse charges a filing fee for registering your trademark with the Trademark Clearinghouse. Those filing fees have been set at $150 for one year, $435 for three years and $725 for five years. In order to register with the Trademark Clearinghouse, your trademark must first be registered with the United States Patent & Trademark Office ("USPTO") or a foreign trademark office.
The intellectual property attorneys here at Jaburg Wilk can help you decipher these new laws and rules and help you to determine whether trademark registration with the USPTO and the Trademark Clearinghouse is right for your business.
About the author: Maria Speth is lawyer at the Phoenix law firm of Jaburg Wilk and she is the Intellectual Property Law Department Chair. She is a frequent speaker on intellectual property law, internet law, trademark and tradename law and is the author of the book, Protect Your Writings: A Legal Guide for Authors.