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What is cybersquatting and how can it hurt businesses?

The Internet is a valuable tool that business owners in New Mexico and across the country can use to help their companies grow. No matter how big or small a company is, consumers want easy access to information about the business, including services offered and product availability. Company websites are created with domain names that generally contain a company trademark, which is something that quickly identifies to consumers that the website belongs to the company for which they are searching. However, others may try to benefit from a company's name or trademark by buying domain names with a similar name or phrase, then selling them for a profit. This is known as cybersquatting, and it can have a negative impact on business growth.

By definition, cybersquatting is the registering, sale or use of domain names that contain a company's trademark, for the sole purpose of making a profit. Basically speaking, cybersquatters buy domain names at little cost with the intent of selling the domain name to the trademark owner or a competing business for a massive profit. If a business owner finds a domain name that is not currently affiliated with his or her company but contains its patented trademark, he or she may be entitled to pursue legal action.

Those who feel they are the victims of cybersquatting do have options available to gain control of the domain names in question. These options include paying the domain owner's asking price, filing a legal claim for trademark infringement or using the arbitration process offered by Internet Corporation of Assigned Names and Numbers, also known as ICANN. Each of these routes could result in the domain name being transferred to the trademark owner; however, each comes at a different cost. It is up to business owners to decide which course of action serves the best interests of their company.

Cybersquatting can have a significant impact on a company's bottom line. Domain names sold to competitors may drive away business, and the cost of fighting cybersquatters can be substantial. Business owners in New Mexico who are faced with this type of situation have every right to keep their trademark protected. Discussing every option available to fight cybersquatting with legal counsel will likely help business owners make the best decision possible for their company's future.

Source: FindLaw, "Internet Cybersquatting: Definition and Remedies", , Oct. 9, 2014

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