Cybersquatting Toolkit : The Trademark Clearinghouse

The Trademark Clearinghouse (TMCH) is an important tool for brand owners who want to cut down on incidents of cybersquatting in new top-level domains.  And what brand owner doesn’t want to curb cybersquatting?

For those of you who aren’t familiar with it, here’s how it works:  Brand owners register their trademarks with the TMCH, which triggers the Trademark Claims Service. The Claims Service alerts both the registrant (person registering the domain) and the registry (back-end provider of the top-level domain) when someone tries to buy a domain that is an identical match to a trademark in the TMCH database.

How helpful has it been to brand owners?

At ICANN Singapore the last week of March, many participants discussed the fact that over 500,000 claims notifications have been sent out. Only five percent of the time do registrants continue on to register the domain name, despite having received an alert that the name is trademarked.

Does this mean that the TMCH is deterring 95 percent of cybersquatting attempts?

Not necessarily. It could be that alerts are being sent to people who are not actually attempting registrations. Registrants, for example, can query a domain name for any number of reasons, say, out of curiosity or simply to confirm that the notification system is working. But this does not mean potential cybersquatters are NOT being deterred.

The simple fact that the notice exists benefits the trademark community. Companies proactive enough to register their trademark terms in the TMCH database know that these alerts may help deter some instances of cybersquatting. Even those cybersquatters who ignore the alerts cannot claim ignorance to the infringing nature of their registration.

Cybersquatting continues despite this service, so it’s important that brand owners have many tools in their anti-cybersquatting toolkit. And we must continue looking for new and better ways to combat cybersquatting. But, in the meantime,  every brand owner should be familiar with and make the most of the tools currently available.

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