Cybersquatting: What You Must Know

Do you know that cybersquatting is a crime?

The Nigerian Cybercrime Act 2015 defines cybersquatting as “the acquisition of a domain name over the internet in bad faith to profit, mislead, destroy reputation, and deprive others from registering the same, if such a domain name is:

  1. Similar, identical, or confusingly similar to an existing trademark registered with the appropriate government agency at the time of the domain name registration:
  2. Identical or in any way similar with the name of a person other than the registrant, in case of a personal name; and
  3. Acquired without right or with intellectual property interests in it.”

So it is an offence to intentionally make use of a name, business name, trademark, domain name or other word or phrase registered, owned or in use by any individual, company or the Government, on the internet or any other computer network, without authority or right, or for the purpose of interfering with their use by the owner.

Do you have a legal right to your domain name?

Do you have a registered trademark over your domain name?

It is advisable to have a registered corporate name and trademark for a name which you want to use as your domain name so as to have a legal right to it.

Are you a victim of cybersquatting? Do you know that there are remedies available to you?

If you are a victim of cybersquatting, you can, first of all, write to the cybersquatter requesting that he gives up the domain name to you.

Though you have a right to bring an action in court, there are faster and less expensive processes of seeking relief.

If your website is a generic top-level domain like “.com”, you can commence a proceeding under the Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP).  The UDRP is an international policy developed by the Internet Corporation of Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) for the purpose of resolving domain name disputes.

Under the UDRP, the owner of a trademark can obtain the transfer of a domain name that incorporates that mark if he proves that the domain name in issue is identical or very similar to his registered trademark; the domain name was registered in bad faith; and that the cybersquatter has no legitimate interest in it.   The UDRP does not provide for monetary damages,

If your website is a country code top-level domain like “.ng”, you can initiate proceedings at the Nigeria Internet Registration Association (NiRA), NiRA has a domain dispute resolution mechanism similar to the UDRP.

In addition to the 2 remedies earlier discussed, there are other remedies available to cybersquatting victims. A Cybersquatting victim can maintain a “Passing-off” action. Passing off protects the goodwill/reputation of a trader from misrepresentation.

In the case of domain name, if you are bringing an action for passing off you must establish that you have a goodwill/reputation in the domain name, that there was a misrepresentation by a 3rd party which has led to confusion or likelihood of confusing the public and  that there was damage as a result of that misrepresentation. You can get a monetary compensation for damages done to your brand.

Moreover, the Nigerian Cybercrime Act 2015 makes Cybersquatting a crime and any offender is liable on conviction to imprisonment for a term of not less than 2 years or a fine of not less than N5,000,000 or both fine and imprisonment.

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