Posted by: Zach Smith
Cybersquatting, or domain squatting, according to the Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act is the act of a bad faith intent to profit from the goodwill of another’s trademark, registers, traffics in, or uses a domain name that is identical to, or confusingly similar to distinctive mark. (Anitcybersquatting Act) The idea is that certain domain names are indispensable to certain companies and if one were able to gain the rights to the domain name first, the company would have no choice but to purchase the domain name. Cybersquatting has become an interesting problem given the rising number of domain names on the Internet and the rise in demand. However, according to Google executive Vinton Cerf, “we are at the cusp in the IP address space for internet.” (Vinton Cerf quote) The question then becomes what happens to cybersquatting and the Internet when all the domain names are taken.
Most of the rise in domain name demand can be attributed to an explosion of information and goods on the Internet. With information becoming the currency of the future, there is a lot of money in a domain name that will attract attention. It is obvious to see the value in a good domain name, but there is still a question as to what will happen in the future. If domain names are disappearing and the demand is rising then one would assume that the value of the domain names will go up. However, without domain names to be claimed there would theoretically be a decline in value and thus a decline in cybersquatting.
Internet researchers have been working for years to provide a solution to the problem of running out of domain names. Internet researchers are working on a new version of the system called IPv6 which would allow many more IP addresses. (Fix to the problem) What researchers are looking to do is basically what the United States did when it ran out of phone numbers in the 80’s and 90’s, simply more numbers. (Fix to the problem) The solution is the same for domain names, add numbers to the end of the domain. The new system may fix the domain availability problem, and likely will at least partially fix the cybersquatting issue.
When all traditional domain names run out, cybersquatting will decline at least in part because of brand recognition. The majority of cybersquatting issues deal with domain names that are similar to a currently owned trademark, but the owner of the trademark does not own the domain. Companies rely on their domain names to maintain and increase business because the most logical way to find a company’s website is to use words associated with the company. Once domain names start to contain numbers, brand recognition will go down simply because adding numbers to a domain name takes away from true brand recognition. If brand recognition is not significant then the value of the domain to the company will go down. For example, if Amazon hypothetically emerged in the future and did not have access to Amazon.com the company would not be willing to shell out as much for Amazon123.com. Brand recognition along with a decline in domain availability cannot completely eliminate cybersquatting, but it goes a long way to slowing it down.
The reality is that the Internet is going to have to change more than just adding numbers to domain names. In order to avoid demand recognition problems companies will have to change the way they offer search option. Currently, brand recognition on the Internet is in large part determined by the companies that offer search engines and the primary method of searching is connecting words. A simple change in the primary method of Internet searches to include numbers along with words. The evolution of the way people use the Internet to search for information is likely to naturally evolve to encompass this change. However, it is too early to conclude that an evolution will occur and the evolution would achieve the same effect as natural word searches. One thing that can be concluded is that cybersquatting, at least for the next few years, should decline.