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What is cybersquatting?

The internet has brought forth some amazing new inventions and changed the world for many people -- it's also responsible for a whole slew of new worries for business owners.

Cybersquatting is one of them. Cybersquatters spend their time looking for website domains that have potential value simply because they sound like something that would be associated with a famous company or person.

Cybersquatters sometimes hope to eventually sell the domain name -- at a substantial profit -- to the famous company or person the name is meant to invoke. For example, someone could have purchased "reebok.com" before Reebok established its website and then tried to sell the domain to Reebok for a nice sum of money. These cybersquatters will sit on an empty domain indefinitely, if possible, waiting to sell it.

Other times, cybersquatters have a different commercial purpose in mind -- and they want to use the goodwill associated with the other party in order to lure in customers. They'll often hijack trademarked symbols associated with the famous party in order to do it. For example, someone might buy the domain "sharkweekads.com" to cash in on the popularity of Shark Week every year. They could then use the site to mislead consumers and sell ads at exorbitant prices.

Typosquatting is a variation of cybersquatting. It involves buying a domain with a deliberate -- but possibly common -- typo in the name. For example, someone might purchase "chasefinancal.com" knowing that a significant number of people would mistake it for the real Chase website once the Chase logo and other items were added to the page. Their intent is to defraud as many people as possible.

It's important to understand that there can be fierce competition for domain names -- not every instance where a domain is taken is cybersquatting. For example, imagine you want to create a clothing business called "Lux" but "lux.com" is taken by an active company that makes homemade soaps. Your only options, most likely, will be to find another website, change your name or buy the domain from the owner.

In cases of true cybersquatting, you can often mount a case to obtain the domain in question through the Anti-Cybersquatting Consumer Protection Act (ACPA). While domain disputes can be time-consuming, it may be absolutely essential if you want to preserve the integrity of your brand.

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