Did someone register your personal name as a domain name? You may have a cause of action against that person for a violation of the Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection act (ACPA).
What is the ACPA?
The ACPA is a federal law enacted in 1999 used to prevent people from squatting on domain names and then extorting money from the rightful owners of those trademark names. Most of the time this comes up in a trademark setting. For instance, if someone chose to register Whirlpool.com but added an extra “o” to Whirlpool, this would be a potential example of cybersquatting. They would be in violation of the ACPA if they used that domain to steal traffic from Whirlpool. Or, if they purchased the domain “whirlpoool.com” and then attempted to sell the domain to Whirlpool, they may be in violation of the ACPA. Ultimately, the law was designed to thwart “cybersquatters” who register Internet domain names containing trademarks with no intention of creating a legitimate web site, but instead plan to sell the domain name to the trademark owner or a third party.
Under the ACPA, a trademark owner may bring a lawsuit against a domain name registrant who:
- Has a bad faith intent to profit from the mark
- Registers, traffics in, or uses a domain name that is
- Identical or confusingly similar to a distinctive mark
- Identical or confusingly similar to a famous mark – sometimes called trademark dilution.
- Is a trademark involving the Red Cross) or marks related to the “Olympics”
However, the ACPA also contains a provision for personal names. The act expressly prohibits people from squatting on someones personal name if they have no legitimate right to do so or if they are using that personal name in bad faith. The bad faith associated with the use of a domain name many times relates to attempts to sell the domain name to the named individual. However, it can also include other actions and is very fact dependent to each case.
It should be noted that the ACPA does not prevent the fair use of trademarks or any use protected by the First Amendment, which includes gripe sites. A gripe site is a type of website that is dedicated to criticism of or complaint about a certain individual, sometimes constructive and other times for the purpose of lampooning the target. That targeted individual could be a person, place, politician, corporation, institution, or something else. These are often created by less affluent people to target powerful people or groups because space is cheap on the Internet.
What if Someone Registers Your Personal Name as a Domain Name?
There are strong attorney fees and cost provisions contained within the ACPA. This helps individuals find legal counsel that will assist them in protecting their name on the internet. If you or someone you know faces an issue where someone else has registered their name as a domain name, you should contact Revision Legal’s experienced Internet attorneys today for assistance. You can contact us through the form on this page or call 855-473-8474.
Editors note: this was originally published in May, 2015; it has been updated for clarity and comprehensiveness.