In a world where the Internet is the number one source of product marketing, domain names have become crucially important, as have the regulations and laws that deal with them.
What are domain names?
A domain name is a website’s address, just like a person usually has a home address. An example of a popular Canadian brand with its own website and domain(s) is timhortons.ca and timhortons.com, which no other company may use.
Similarly, if an American brand has a Canadian presence, then they often have a .ca address to ensure that another business will not use their name.
What is the importance of domain names?
A domain name is crucially important to a business, because the owner of the domain name gets to direct Internet traffic to a website, forbid others from using that domain name and stop anyone else from using that same domain name.
Having an exclusive domain name helps businesses get their product out and be a visible market presence, which adds a lot of economic value to a business. This is one of the reasons why the law restricts the ability of a person or business to register a domain name that has already been taken.
What does the law say about domain names?
The most important thing about domain names for legal purposes is the fact that a business cannot appropriate the domain name of another business. This will inevitably lead to a dispute arising between the parties.
When it comes to disputes arising between businesses that have the same or very similar domain names, then these disputes would be most likely be raised under the Canadian Trade-marks Act if it went to court.
Often, if someone else took a domain name belonging to a business that had it first, a cease-and-desist letter is enough. If it isn’t, the parties can usually go to arbitration and if arbitration doesn’t solve the problem, then a court case is usually started.
The Trade-marks Act protects a business’ brand and it says that another business or person cannot poach on that business’ brand. Trade-marks law exists to ensure that businesses' logos, designs, and other marks are protected so that the business can uniquely market itself in Canada. Brand confusion often hurts businesses and the act tries to prevent that from happening.
Sometimes registering a domain name already in use is done by accident, sometimes it’s deliberate and sometimes it’s done as a result of cybersquatting.
What is cybersquatting?
Cybersquatting occurs when a person that doesn’t have a business interest in a particular trademark registers a domain name containing that trademark. However, the intent of the person is not to use the trademark to promote their business but rather to re-sell the domain name to the owner of the trademark for an exaggerated price.
If your domain name has been copied by another business or you suspect you may be a victim of cybersquatting you should consult a lawyer.
Domain Name Disputes: From a Canadian Perspective
Domain Name Disputes
Domain Names and Cybersquatting