If you have worked hard to establish your business, and you have done all the promotional work to get to the top, you will be very upset to find out someone is using your trade mark to promote their own company. This is not something that happens only in extreme cases, but something that every business owner should be aware of. Well known trade marks are often abused through what is called ‘cyber squatting’. Here is what you need to know about it:
Cyber squatting is when someone registers, use or sell a trade mark name on the Internet that is similar to the name of an established, well known brand, in an attempt to make money of a name that is already popular and established amongst people.
It all started when a few people registered the names of well-known companies as domain names, and then reselling the domain names, at an exaggerated price, once the original companies realised what had happened. A few popular brand’s that have been a victim of this are Panasonic, Hertz and Avon. Businesses are more aware today, however, of immediately getting their domain name registered, and so should you if you have your own company.
Recognising Cyber Squatting
If you want to find out whether someone is perhaps free-riding on your company’s name, you can find out through a quick internet search. If your trade mark is ‘Penny Paints’, and you are a well established name, you can type in www.pennypaints.co.za (for example), and see where it takes you. You might arrive at a website where someone is trying to sell paints or painting services (or whatever else your business does). This is most probably the work of a cyber squatter.
On the other hand, if you arrive at a fully functioning website when you type in the pennypaints-address and you find another business called penny paints, but it is the name of a business that has nothing to do with paint and house painting services (or whatever your company offers), it poses no threat or competition to you and it is probably not a cyber squatter. It might be a woman blogging about her experiences as a painter with no intention of selling paint or painting services!
Cyber Squatting Versus Trade Mark Infringement
Cyber Squatting is not the same as trade mark infringement. Cyber squatting is when someone uses a name that is exactly the same as the name of a well known registered business. On the other hand, trade mark ingringement is when someone uses a name or sign that sounds or looks very similar to the name or sign of a popular brand, and it might, therefore, deceive people.
If you are aware of illegalities such as trade mark infringement or cyber squatting, you are well-informed regarding protecting your registered domain name or trade mark for which you have work hard!