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Domain Name Issues In Cyberspace

This article delves into the world of domain name disputes in the digital era, addressing issues arising from technological advancements. It defines domain names and their components, highlighting their critical role in online identity. The article explores various types of domain name disputes, including cybersquatting, typo-squatting, and reverse domain name hijacking, with real-world cases illustrating each. It underscores proactive strategies for companies to avoid disputes, such as early domain registration and vigilant monitoring. Lastly, it introduces the Uniform Domain-Name Dispute-Resolution Policy (UDRP) as an effective global framework for resolving such conflicts swiftly and fairly.

The World has become very advanced now and these advancements keep on happening even now. From Computers to laptop to smartphones to robots and AI, we have come across a long journey of science and technological developments. But with new inventions and technology also comes new types of crimes and different kind of issues that need to be addressed altogether. Since, the invention of Internet, cyberspace has become vulnerable to all new sorts of crimes going online. Even, copyrights and trademark violations take place in the same cyberspace.

With the development of e-coṁṁerce, the importance of having genuine websites to not only sell but also to address grievances is not unknown to us. Some people misuse the trademarked name of famous brands to register a domain name so as to bring more traffic to their website or even to sell their products under the reputation and brand-value of the original. Thus, the whole concept of domain name disputes comes into play. The subject is still developing and is relatively newer but, the number of instances of domain disputes are increasing since forever.

Let us discuss more about domain name issues in this article.

What is a domain name?
In the world of computers or the cyberspace, every website to be located needs to have a Domain Name. Domain name is the address of a company or an individual on the internet. For e.g.,,, etc. These are all domain names for Google, Flipkart and Amazon India respectively. Domain names are the names of the individual or company on the internet through which they can be found on the internet. Domain Names are also known as Uniform Resource Locator (URL).

Domain names consist of three parts � Top level domain, second level domain and third level domain.

Let us consider an example This domain name has:

Third level domain � www.

Second level domain � "Instagram"; second level domain usually consists of the unique name of the company.

Top level domain � ".com"; this signifies whether the site is of a company (.co) or for commercial purpose (.com) or non-profit (.org). Sometimes it also contains .in, .jp, etc. that symbolize the country like India, Japan etc.

It must now be understood that every individual or company has a unique domain name. They can be acquired by getting a registration for the same.

Domain Name Disputes
Now that we know, anyone can get a domain name by registering the same. What happens sometimes, is that people either use the name of a famous company or at least a confusingly similar name and thereby use the popularity and reputation of that famous company to attract users to their websites. This act particularly infringes the trademark rights of the famous company. Even the goodwill of the company is harmed by such fake websites. Thus, cybersquatting is a serious issue for popular companies that have a good reputation and also take away their "potential" customers, causing losses thereof.

You may have seen cautions on the real websites to be cautious of the fake websites and that this is the real website of the company. It is for the purpose that people don't mistake the fake ones as real and get involved in a scam which will harm their reputation.

Types of Domain name disputes:
There are various types of domain name disputes such as cybersquatting, typo-squatting, reverse domain name hijacking etc.

Let us discuss each one of those in detail.

Cybersquatting is an act wherein an authorised person buys the domain name in some popular company's name only with the motive of selling it to the original company at a higher price later.

Consider an illustration. Let us say that Instagram is a product of Meta Co. and it doesn't have a registered domain name yet. So, a person 'A' in the US gets a registered domain name Now, because already exists it will not be possible for Meta to get the same domain name. So, they will have to buy the domain name from A. This practice is called Cybersquatting.

There are three essentials to prove Cybersquatting, which are as follows
  1. Well-known trademark of the applicant is diluted.
  2. Identically similar or same trademark names.
  3. Malafide Intention to profit from the popularity of the name or trademark of the applicant

Panavision International, L.P. v. Toeppen (1999)[1]:
This is one of the most basic cases of cybersquatting. In this case, Panavision was a camera and films company which had registered trademarks Panavision and panaflex. When Panavision tried to register a domain with this name, it was found that it was already registered by Toeppen. The company sent a notice to Toeppen to stop using their trademarked name, but Toeppen went ahead and got the domain "" registered too. The case was then taken to court.

The plaintiffs contended that Mr. Toeppen was a cyber-pirate who had done this multiple times before with a view of selling the domain name to the true owners and benefitting from the same. Toeppen claimed that it was not a case of cybersquatting since he was using it for a non-commercial purpose. The court ruled in favour of Panavision and therefore, the domain names was shifted to Panavision.

Coca-Cola Company v. Purdy[2]:
In this case, the defendant had purchased many domain names related to Coke, Coca-Cola, MC Donald's and many other well-known trademarks such as "," "," and "" He was using their popularity and fame to promote anti-abortion ideology and seek donations for the same. The Court ruled in favour of the plaintiffs and prohibited the defendant from using any such trademarked names as domain names as the domain names had striking similarity with the well-known trademarks of the plaintiff and were capable of causing confusion.

Verizon California Inc. v. Online Nic, Inc[3]:
Online NIC used an automated process to claim sites such as,,,, and These fake websites used to run pop up ads, links etc. that were generating revenue to the defendant. As a result, the Court ruled in favour of Verizon and awarded $50,000 per domain name.

Typo-squatting is the type of cyber-squatting where wrong spelling or different spelling of the brand is used so as to create confusion, while also maintaining that the domain name is "different" from that of the famous brand(s).

The word 'typo' in the name, is a slang used to refer to typing error. So, typo - squatting is used for incorrectly spelt brand names that are so similar that they can cause confusion in the minds of the people.

To understand better, consider an example. is a global shopping website. Now, another person 'B' registers a website "" This is called typo-squatting. The purpose here is the same, to get more traffic to their website and earn money thereby.

Lamparello v. Falwell[4]:
In this case, Jerry Falwell was a famous politician, who could be reached on . One Lamparello, after hearing Falwell's views on homosexuality opened a gripe-website (a website opened only for the purpose of criticising another) In this website, he made it clear that it was not defendant's website and also provided links to the original website. He did not carry out any commercial activity through this website as well. The court ruled that a website with a domain name containing a celebrity's name, used for a non-commercial, gripe-site purpose, was not necessarily cybersquatting. It clarified that not all uses of domain names that resemble trademarks constitute bad faith.

Gulshan Khatri vs Google Inc[5]:
In this case, Mr. Khatri got a domain name registered called "" According to him he had been using the name googlee without any issues. Google found out about this domain and filed a case that googlee could cause confusion and it is similar to their trademark google. In his website, Khatri also used the same fonts, color, visuals used in google's website. Thus, it was considered to be confusingly similar to google.

Porsche Cars North America, Inc. v.[6]:
In this case, the domain name "" was registered, containing a common misspelling of the Porsche trademark. The court ruled that this was a case of cybersquatting and ordered the transfer of the domain to Porsche.

Reverse domain name hijacking
Reverse Domain Name Hijacking (RDNH) is a term used in the context of domain name disputes and refers to the improper or bad-faith attempt by a trademark holder (or any complainant) to gain control of a domain name from its current legitimate owner. RDNH occurs when someone files a complaint under the Uniform Domain-Name Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP) or a similar domain dispute resolution process, alleging that a domain name infringes on their trademark or is being used in bad faith, even though they know or should have known that their complaint is without merit. This is usually termed abuse of process.

Illustration: A person 'X' has a legitimate domain name, which he had been using from many years. A Company, "X" who is in the automobile industry who does not even have a registered trademark, files domain name dispute in bad faith knowing that there is no merit in their case and only with a view to gain the domain name.

How to avoid domain name disputes?
As mentioned above, domain name disputes can lead to major damage to the company's reputation and also cause loss of potential customers. This is why companies are always on the lookout for similar named websites.

To avoid any domain name dispute from arising, it is always better to
  1. Register the domain name first so that no one else can use it for their benefit
  2. Always checking for fake websites and sending them notices to take down the registered trademark name.
  3. Spread awareness about the company's original website on packaging, advertisements, etc.

In case of any domain name dispute UDRP can be approached for solution.

Uniform Domain-Name Dispute-Resolution Policy (UDRP)
The Uniform Domain-Name Dispute-Resolution Policy (UDRP) stands as a globally acknowledged framework designed to address disputes involving domain names, particularly those associated with trademark violations and dishonest registration practices. Originating from the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the UDRP offers an efficient and cost-effective approach to resolving domain-related conflicts, sidestepping the need for protracted and expensive legal actions.

Within the UDRP framework, trademark owners hold the ability to submit complaints against domain name registrants if they suspect that a registered domain either closely resembles their trademark or has been acquired and employed in bad faith. These cases are meticulously assessed by panels of impartial experts who render verdicts.

Crucial facets of the UDRP encompass:
Transparent Criteria: The UDRP clearly outlines specific benchmarks for establishing the validity of a complaint, necessitating evidence that the domain name in question is indistinguishable or perplexingly similar to the trademark, and that the registrant lacks a genuine interest in the domain.

Swift Resolution: UDRP proceedings are renowned for their expeditious nature, usually concluding within a few months, rendering them a rapid choice for settling domain-related disputes.

Transfer or Annulment: In the event of a successful complaint, the domain name can be either transferred to the complainant or annulled, contingent on the circumstances surrounding the case.

Sanctions for Reverse Domain Name Hijacking (RDNH): The UDRP further deters unwarranted complaints by granting panels the authority to declare instances of RDNH when a complaint is evidently frivolous or founded on bad faith.

The UDRP has played a pivotal role in upholding order in the domain name ecosystem, thwarting cybersquatting and upholding trademark rights, all while delivering an equitable and efficient mechanism for dispute resolution. Widely embraced and esteemed within the domain name industry, it has been indispensable in safeguarding the interests of trademark holders and legitimate domain registrants.

Domain name disputes are one of the recently developed issues. It seriously infringes the trademark rights of the complainant. They can also cause loss to the company. There are various types of domain name issues such as cybersquatting, typo-squatting, reverse domain name hijacking etc. Domain name disputes are resolved by UDRP.

In India, there is no specific legislation addressing the issue of cyber-squatting particularly. Since the Trademarks Act, 1999 also includes domain names, cybersquatting is dealt under that section. The US however, has the Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act (ACPA), 1999 to address cybersquatting issues.

  1. 41 U.S.P.Q.2d (BNA) 1310
  2. Case No. 02-1782 ADM/JGL
  3. 647 F. Supp. 2d 1110 (N.D. Cal. 2009)
  4. 420 F.3d 309
  5. O.M.P. (COMM) 497/2016
  6. 51 F. Supp. 2d 707

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