Online brand protection: don't be a victim of cybersquatting

Every business must protect its assets. And for online businesses, there is perhaps no more valuable asset than your domain name. Investing in online brand protection is one way to ensure you stay safe from online threats like cybersquatting which can cause serious damage.

by Daniel - 20.10.2016

Protect yourself!

One of the most effective and efficient ways to do this is by warding off cybersquatters ready to pounce on your unregistered and/or expired domain name.

What’s cybersquatting?

In case you aren’t familiar with the practice of cybersquatting, it’s when someone registers a commercially viable domain name, i.e., a name that is similar to a well-known company or product. The goal is to sell it for a high price or to profit from its high ranking in search engine page results.

In recent years, India, in particular, has fallen victim to foreigners capitalising on Indian domain names with yoga and guru-related sites being bought and resold for tens of thousands of dollars.

But, luckily, there are several precautions you can take to protect your domain name and your reputation.

Here are three of the most efficient ways you can ensure that you don’t fall victim to the practices of unscrupulous domain hijackers.

1. Register your trademark

The first step you absolutely must take is to register your trademark. You can’t afford not to.

Registering your trademarked domain name ensures that you are able to enforce your rights as owner of the trademark. And you are the owner of the trademark if you are the first to use it, much easier to prove in a court of law if it has already been registered with the Trademark Clearinghouse.

If you haven’t registered your trademark and fall victim to a squatter, you will find that there are still a couple of protective measures in place for you. You will be able to file a Uniform Rapid Suspension (URS) complaint to try to prove infringement has occurred. Moreover, all registrars are required to follow the same practices for Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution (UDRP), designed to protect you from trademark infringement.

2. Register multiple variations of your domain name

A particular type of cybersquatting, known as typosquatting, involves figuring out – and buying up - the most common misspellings of your name: brand.com, brands.com, brnds.com. Those misspellings could end up costing you quite a bit down the road.

And they’ll no doubt prove to be a real nuisance to your unsuspecting customers. A recent study of commonly misspelled, high profile domain names shows that a large number of misspelled domains are used to unleash malware or pop ups, or for phishing purposes.

Therefore, perhaps the easiest way to protect your name is to register multiple spellings of your domain name. Register singular, plural, and hyphenated versions of your name, and don’t forget your acronym. Acronyms are just as prone to being misspelled as your full domain name is.

3. Register more than one extension

Many businesses register their domain with a variety of extensions – .COM, .NET, . ORG, etc. – so as to better target specific online markets. As an added bonus, registering multiple domain extensions will also ensure that you limit opportunities for others to use a variation of your domain. And, while you're at it, don't forget to register your domain with various relevant country code extensions.

Watch your back!

Cybersquatting is a serious problem, a problem that became increasingly more serious in 2015. With domain name poaching becoming such a commonplace concern, the need to protect your domain name is all the greater.

The more aware you are of your online brand protection options, the better prepared you will be to fend off cybersquatters. Taking proactive, preventative steps to protect your domain from abuse and fraud is the smartest action you can take.

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