Senate committee targets 'cybersquatters' by approving new bill
SAN FRANCISCO (IDG) -- The U.S. Senate's Judiciary Committee passed a bill Thursday aimed at curtailing so-called "cybersquatting" by people who register on the Internet domain names similar to well-known trademarks.
The bill, called the "Domain Name Piracy Prevention Act of 1999," will next be addressed by the full Senate, said Jeanne LoPatto, a press secretary for the Judiciary Committee. The bill passed by a voice vote with no dissenters, she said.
The legislation was sponsored by a bipartisan group that included Judiciary Chairman Orrin Hatch, Republican of Utah, who strongly criticized the practice of registering names in hopes of selling them.
"In many cases, the domain name that takes consumers to the Internet site and the graphical interface that greets them when they get there are the only indications of source and authenticity, and legitimate and illegitimate sites may be indistinguishable in cyberspace," Hatch said in a statement.
"So if a bad actor is hiding behind a domain name bearing someone else's trademark, an online consumer is at serious risk of being defrauded," he said. "The result, as with other forms of trademark violations, is the erosion of consumer confidence in brand name identifiers and in electronic commerce generally."
Cybersquatters have used names such as "attphonecard.com" and "attcallingcard.com," purporting to sell calling cards, and "dellspares.com," apparently offering to sell Dell products without Dell Computer Corp.'s permission, Hatch said.
Other cybersquatters establish domain names similar to brand names solely to sell them to the brands, Hatch said.
The bill would give domain registries limited exemptions from liability if they cancel a name they believe infringes on another domain name. The bill would also allow trademark owners to recover damages in cybersquatting cases.
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