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What is reverse domain name hijacking?

Published March 30, 2011

Reverse domain hijacking is  also known as reverse cybersquatting.

In cybersquatting, a party registers a domain name in bad faith, i.e. knowing that the registration will negatively impact another party through infringing on their brand. For example, a cybersquatter may register a misspelling of a popular domain with the intention of selling it to the brand owner at a greatly inflated price, or to run advertising on a site associated with the domain name, and usually to divert traffic from the brand owner to a competitor - or their own competing business.

A reverse domain hijacking occurs when the owner of a brand attempts to gain control of a domain name legitimately registered by another party through making false claims. An example may be where a web site has been in existence for many years under a generic word based domain and a new business starts up under the same or similar name. The owner of the new business discovers they cannot register the domain name as it is already taken and threatens the domain registrant with litigation. There have also been cases where companies with deep pockets have filed complaints under the Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (often referred to as the "UDRP") simply because they want a particular name; even if it's not closely aligned with their brand. 

Even if the brand owner doesn't have a case, the threat of legal proceedings can sometimes be enough to scare the domain name registrant into settling out of court or outside the UDRP (or the auDRP in the case of  an Australian domain name), which may involve the transfer of the domain name to the complainant.

The UDRP and auDRP contains no "punishment" to prevent or deter reverse domain name hijacking aside from it being noted in case files, which are available to the public, the complaint was brought in bad faith and constitutes an abuse of the administrative proceeding. The registrant needs to rely on the UDRP process to establish that the registrant did not register the domain name in bad faith and/or the domain name does not infringe on the complainants trademarks. Unfortunately, should the UDRP process fail in this respect, while there are avenues for contesting the decision, they are extremely expensive.

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