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Domain grabbing and cybersquatting

The perfect domain name is worth thousands of euros, if not millions, and people looking for a suitable address (URL) for their site often have to recognize that easy to remember names have already been purchased by others. But not all purchased urls have a site and are really used. It also happens that a domain is purchased for the purpose of being resold.

The demand is very important for the price increase: the most requested domain extensions (.com, .it, etc.) are also resold for several thousand euros. In the domain sales market there are many people and companies who have foresightedly purchased addresses with great potential.

The boundary between reselling domains legally and committing an action punished by law is very subtle. In Italy the terms domain grabbing and cybersquatting are often used interchangeably, but in reality there is a difference between the two.

Domain grabbing

Domain grabbing consists in purchasing a domain not to use it but to sell it and make a profit. Those who deal with domain grabbing hope to obtain a considerable profit margin, to do this they use terms in common use with the preferred top level domains.

The names of specific products or services are usually avoided in domain grabbing in order not to run into legal disputes with the rights holders.

So domain grabbing does not violate the trademark right. Sometimes domain grabbing is considered by the internet community as ethically questionable, in reality the trade of domains is a commercial operation recognized by Italian law, provided that there is no illegal action against competition.

In Italy there is a tendency to simply speak of resale of domains, when referring to a commercial action legally recognized and protected by law. In fact, the expression domain grabbing has a negative connotation, because the expression is frequently used as an analogue of cybersquatting.

Cybersquatting

Cybersquatting (from English squatter = abusive) is dedicated to the brands and proper names of people or companies. The goal is to register terms that are legally protected as part of the domain name and then sell them at exorbitant prices to the real owner. According to the type of protected term, cybersquatting is also defined as brandjacking, in the case of a brand, or namejacking, if the term in question is the name of a person including pseudonyms and stage names of personalities in sight , musicians, sportsmen or TV stars. Sometimes there are also cases consisting of a cross between the two variants.

To solicit the owners of the rights, domains with a name linked to their ownership are sometimes managed in a questionable way, for example by inserting content that puts the person or company in a bad light. Another variant of cybersquatting is the so-called typosquatting, in which variants of the brand name with typing errors are registered as a domain name, to intercept visitors directly to the official website.

The legislation concerning domains in Italy

Anyone who believes that their brand or name is used by a third party without their right to do so can turn to the law. In Italy, although several bills have been advanced, there is still no specific legislation for cybersquatting and mainly relies on the law to protect the trademark and the right to name to resolve this type of dispute.

In the case of a .it domain, an opposition procedure can be started in the event of disputes, for example when there is a dispute over the name. Registry.it (the Italian NIC) does not take part in the resolution of the dispute but, to start the procedure, it is necessary to inform it in writing with the sender’s data, the domain name in question and the reasons behind the request for the procedure of opposition.

If there is no judgment within 180 days, the procedure must be renewed by registered letter (up to a maximum of two times). Once the procedure has started, there are two possible ways to go: the arbitrary arbitration and the reassignment procedure.

In the first case, a panel of arbitrators with expertise in the assignment of .it domains is addressed, not to the ordinary judiciary.

In the second case, instead, we turn to the Providers of the Dispute Resolution Service (PSRD), which are professional firms dedicated to solving questions relating to Italian domains, in order to verify that the domain in question has not been registered in bad faith.

With regard to international disputes on domains, ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) has introduced a conciliation procedure with the Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP). This offers an alternative to negotiations

before national law and allows the plaintiffs to obtain, in addition to the cancellation, also a transfer of the disputed domain.

Violations of the right to the name in the domain name
The Civil Code (articles 6 and 7) protects the right to the name not only of natural persons but also of legal ones and the same rules also apply in the case in which a pseudonym is used. In the event that someone misuses the name of another, the law provides that:

“The person, to whom the right to use their name is contested or who may suffer prejudice from the use that others unduly make of it, can request judicial cessation of the harmful event (1), subject to compensation for damages (2) . The judicial authority can order that the sentence be published in one or more newspapers (120 c.p.c.) (3). “

The use of a name in a domain registration is therefore illegal if those who use the domain do not have the right to the name for the domain in question. A Mr. Rossi does not have the same rights on the bianchi.it domain as Mr. Bianchi. The latter would have a much better chance of asserting his claims in a legal dispute. But the right to the name, as already anticipated above, is not possessed only by natural persons. If Mr. Rossi is the administrative director of Bianchi Srl he also has a right on the domain name. In these cases, the NIC assignment principle applies: first come, first served.

In domain name disputes, we are faced not only with names of people, but also with general classical terms typical of common language which are difficult for the person concerned to claim because they represent entire sectors or general categories.