Australia: Cybersquatting in Australia – Assistance for gaming operators in recovery of domain names

Last Updated: 23 April 2012
Article by Martin O'Connor, Ashleigh Fehrenbach and Jamie Nettleton

Global companies, including gambling operators, often come across cybersquatters who attempt to "free ride" on their brand and register domain names which suggest wrongly an association with that brand.

In many cases, the cybersquatter operates an active website in association with the domain name, thereby deriving business through an implicit association with the relevant brand.

We have come across this type of activity in many countries, including Australia. In a recent example, a brand associated with an online gaming client was registered by an Australian company as a domain name in the sub-domain. This was used to divert customers to a website operated by our clients' competitor.

In this situation, clients often choose to rely on their intellectual property rights to cause this infringing use to cease. However, a more cost effective and timely remedy may be available.

In order to resolve this matter, we made a complaint to the .au Domain Administration (auDA) (the government-endorsed manager of the Australian domain names). To have a basis for auDA to delete the domain name, it was necessary to establish that the Australian company had not complied with auDA's Domain Name Eligibility and Allocation Policy Rules. Under these Rules, domain names in the 2LD must be an exact match, abbreviation or acronym of the registrant's name or trade mark or otherwise be closely and substantially connected to the registrant.

After carrying out investigations to confirm that the issue of the domain name to the Australian company did in fact breach these Rules, we wrote to auDA who then directed the registrar to delete the offending domain name. The domain name subsequently entered a "pending delete" status for 14 calendar days and was subsequently dropped from the Register, after which it became available for our client to register.

It was only a number of days after our complaint was made to auDA that the registrar was directed to delete the domain name. Shortly after, the domain name was made available for our client to register. By using this process, the matter was resolved successfully for our client in a very short space of time without resorting to litigation.

In order to protect their intellectual property rights, gambling operators should monitor domain names in the TLD space regularly to ensure that they are not being registered by cybersquatters. Appropriate trade mark protection should also be sought.

In any event, effective remedies through the domain name administration process may be available.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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