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How to Stop Someone From Stealing Your Domain Names Under New York Law

 

Over the last several years, there has been a rising trend whereby people would buy up domain names that suggested they belonged to various businesses or companies, and then try to extort exorbitant sums of money from those businesses or companies to purchase that domain name. This falls under the general rubric of unfair competition.

"How could that possibly work?" you ask.

Consider this: if you're a large company or business that manufactures food products, and you operate under the domain name abccorp.com. An individual with nefarious intent then purchases the domain names abc-corp.com and abccorp.net, and makes it seem to the average consumer that it is actually a legitimate website associated with your business, but the site is nowhere near your company's standards, or worse, reports that there have been complaints about your products. That individual then offers you the "opportunity" to buy 'their' domain names - albeit at a terribly inflated premium.

Recognizing this disturbing trend, New York's legislature enacted Article 9-C of the General Business Law, entitled the “Domain Names Cyber Piracy Protections Act." The statute provides, in pertinent part, as follows:

§ 148. Unlawful registration of domain name

1. No person or entity shall register a domain name that consists of the name of another living person, or a name substantially and confusingly similar thereto, without that person's or entity's consent, with the specific intent to profit from such name by selling the domain name for financial gain to that person or any third party.

"But what's the penalty if an individual is found to have violated this statute?" you ask.

The very next section, §149, provides for three (3) primary remedies:

(1) a court may award injunctive relief, including the forfeiture or cancellation of the domain name;

(2) the court may fine the person or entity one thousand dollars for each day the violation occurs; and,

(3) the court may also order the transfer of the domain name as part of the relief awarded.

#2 on this list alone is certainly a strong disincentive for anyone to try misappropriating these domain names, and recognizes the importance of this issue.