Reverse domain name hijacking refers to taking aggressive actions to acquire a specific domain name. If you don’t already know, it is a criminal offense that can lead offenders to pay hefty fines or even land them in jail.

Reverse domain name hijacking, also known as “reverse cybersquatting,” is a legal means to counter cybersquatting. But there are times when individuals and companies abuse the practice to force nonmalicious domain owners to part with the domain names the complainant is interested in obtaining. In the latter case, instead of finding the accused cybersquatter guilty, the tables get turned and the complainant gets penalized instead.

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We mentioned that reverse domain name hijacking is a cybersquatting remedy. How exactly? Find out below.

How Does Reverse Domain Name Hijacking Prevent Cybersquatting?

Before we answer this question, let’s define cybersquatting first.

What Is Cybersquatting?

Cybersquatting is the process of registering domain names that contain trademarked words or copyrighted terms that belong to specific entities in bad faith. Threat actors perform the act to hopefully get the spoofed individual’s or company’s followers to visit their websites instead. Or they hope to sell counterfeit versions of the spoofed entity’s products or services. Or they hope to get the spoofed individual’s or company’s attention to sell the domain for a considerable profit. In any case, the cybersquatter aims to make a buck from hijacking the domains of popular entities.

Reverse domain name hijacking prevents cybersquatting in that individuals and companies can file a lawsuit against cybersquatters for infringing on their intellectual property rights. If the look-alike domain owners are found guilty, they lose their ownership rights to the disputed properties.

How Can Reverse Domain Name Hijacking Abuse Be Restricted?

The Uniform Domain-Name Dispute-Resolution Policy (UDRP) has mandates to prevent entities from committing reverse domain name hijacking to force domain owners (normally accused of cybersquatting) to give up their properties. Since it is tough to prove a critical element of the act, specifically that the domain name was registered in bad faith. To remain objective, the UDRP specifies justifications for finding a complainant guilty of reverse cybersquatting.

When Is a Complainant Guilty of Reverse Domain Name Hijacking?

A UDRP complainant commits reverse cybersquatting when:

  • The complainant files a complaint against the owner of a domain name that was registered before it obtained trademark rights.
  • The complaint can’t prove that the domain owner registered the domain name in bad faith or plans to use the web property against it.
  • The complainant uses the UDRP complaint as a plan B to secure the domain name after commercial negotiations with its owner fail.
  • The complainant is trying to trick the domain owner into handing over the domain name.

What Are Examples of Reverse Domain Name Hijacking Cases?

Here are a few examples where the UDRP complainant was found guilty of committing reverse domain name hijacking.

  • Urban Logic, Inc. v. Urban Logic, Peter Holland: Urban Logic, Inc. of Palo Alto, California, filed a UDRP case against Urban Logic and Peter Holland of San Francisco, California, regarding the domain name urbanlogic[.]com. The court found the complainant guilty of reverse domain name hijacking since it acquired a trademark for Urban Logic eight years after the defendant had already been using the organization name Urban Logic and the domain name urbanlogic[.]com for his legitimate company.
  • Deutsche Welle v. DiamondWare Limited: Deutsche Welle in Germany filed a UDRP complaint against DiamondWare Limited in the U.S. regarding the domain name dw[.]com. World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) found the complainant guilty of reverse domain name hijacking since it failed to prove that the defendant had no rights or legitimate interests related to the disputed domain name. It was also unable to confirm that dw[.]com was registered and is being used in bad faith.
  • Liquid Nutrition Inc. v. liquidnutrition[.]com/Vertical Axis Inc.: Liquid Nutrition Inc. of Montreal, Quebec, Canada, files a UDRP case against liquidnutrition[.]com/Vertical Axis Inc. of Christ Church, Barbados, regarding the domain name liquidnutrition[.]com. The court found the complainant guilty of reverse domain name hijacking since Vertical Axis Inc. had already been using the disputed domain name for years before the establishment of Liquid Nutrition Inc.

Reverse cybersquatting is, given the numerous predecessors, reasonably common. And while it was primarily designed as an anti-cybersquatting measure, many entities are clearly also taking advantage of its benefits, such as obtaining someone else’s property by force.