Someone stole my domain name - what do I do?

Every once in a while we get an email from a domain name owner saying "Someone stole my domain name - what do I do?"

Here is the only answer we can provide to that question.

Unfortunately, and I'm very sorry to tell you this, because you guys let
the domain expire for more than 30 days, the bad guys in this case will offer you terms to
SELL YOU your own name. Because they are not offering any competitive
service, or using the term "(insert domain name here)" in any way other
than to provide people with information about things they might be
interested in (including YOU), there is not a crime being committed
here. The only way to fight this within the legal system is with Civil
Litigation.

*IF* you have trademarked the word "(insert domain name here)", then you
file suit against them and try to get a court injunction to shut down
the name. The bad guy will (rightly) point out to you that it would
actually be cheaper to BUY the name from him than it would be to pay
your lawyers to take it from him.

This is what Domain Squatting is all about. Fortunately there are
things besides the law on your side.

It would be easier if they had copied the content of your site (they
haven't) or were using your graphics (they aren't). Unfortunately,
there is no phishing here.

The easier, quicker way (although with substantially less penalties
imposed) is to use the Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy.

The proper way to fight this OUTSIDE the courts, is to file a "Uniform
Domain Name Dispute" with ICANN. ICANN is the governing body for all
registrars who service .com, .net, and .org domain names. (Insert
Registrar name here) is an "accredited ICANN Registrar", which means it
MUST abide by the ICANN Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy.

According to the Policy, to reclaim your domain name, all you must do is
show:

1) Evidence of Registratrion and Use in Bad Faith (your case clearly
meets the criteria)

2) Legitimate Interest in the Domain Name (by you . The fact that your
company previously owned the domain name would make it clear you have a
"Legitimate Interest" in the name.)

The ICANN Policy is here:

http://www.icann.org/udrp/udrp-policy-24oct99.htm

Point your lawyers at that, and then decide what you want to do, but as
I mentioned, I am not aware of a precedent which would consider a
"crime" to have been committed here. Though again, you may have a
legitimate grievance if you have trademarked "(insert domain name here)".

There are three companies who handle these disputes on behalf of ICANN.
All specialize in "Domain Name Dispute Resolution Services", if your
lawyers would rather use these than trying their luck with Civil
Litigation against an unknown party in an unknown country.

World Intellectual Property Organization -- WIPO --
http://arbiter.wipo.int/domains/ -- they handled around 80 cases a month
of this sort of thing in 2004.

The National Arbitration Forum -- NAF --
http://www.arbforum.com/domains/ -- they handle around 1,000 cases per
year, including several recent "celebrity" cases - such as
"willsmith.tv" and "pearljams.com"

International Institute for Conflict Prevention & Resolution -- CPR
-- http://new.cpradr.org/ICANN_Menu.asp (Allen Glover)

Before you get to the Arbitration point, you might try a simple letter
to the Registrar from your lawyer, pointing out the reasons (given
above) that this violates the above policy. They most likely would
rather delete the domain than go to arbitration too.

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