Tech & Communications

Cyber squatting in Qatar

by  — 4 July 2013

Two years ago, Qatar announced the availability of local domain names. If your organisation does not have an online presence yet, it might be a good idea to register your company trademark soon, explains Theuns van de Merwe, a consultant with a Doha-based law firm.

Qatar Domains Registry recently launched an application for both iOS and Android platforms that allows users to check domain name availability and register their domain name with an accredited registrar.

Cybersquatting is best explained by an example: Company A owns the trademark XYZ. Company B determines that company A does not own a registration for the domain name online and proceeds to register it without company A’s consent. The domain name is then pointed towards a webpage showing it is for sale. Company B then offers to sell the domain name to Company A for an exorbitant amount. Company A’s trademark in the form of a domain name is now held to ransom. Even worse, Company B subsequently redirects the domain name to a webpage selling Company A’s competitors’ products. Company A is now also potentially losing sales.

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) and its domain name registrars do not generally monitor domain names to ensure that the legitimate owners of trademarks are protected from cybersquatting. Previously, trademark owners were left to employ defensive domain registrations and engage in post offending domain name registration recovery negotiation and dispute resolution to combat cybersquatting. Given the almost limitless possibility of domain name variations, most trademark owners face a losing battle against this practice.

15,891 - Local domain names have been registered via the Qatar Domains Registry since its opening to the public in 2011.

The Trade Mark Clearinghouse system, built to combat cybersquatting is a monitoring service by ICANN that warns recorded trademark owners of a potentially infringing domain name application, and it offers solutions to address the impending registration. Some of the limitations to the Trade Mark Clearinghouse system are that it will only identify domain names which are identical to recorded trademarks (not similar domain names) and only certain categories or types of trademarks will be accepted for recording in the system. 

Despite its limitations, the creation of the Trade Mark Clearinghouse system is a step in the right direction in the fight against cybersquatting. Owners would be well advised to record their trademarks under the system in terms of an overall trademark protection strategy, but specialist advice should always be obtained when dealing with such issues.

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