The Growing Threat of Cybersquatting in the Philippines

Did you know that many of the world’s most famous celebrities and brands might not actually be associated with sites that use their name as part of a domain name?

Welcome to the wild world of cybersquatting, defined as registering a domain name associated with a recognizable brand or individual, with the purpose of profiting from it. They do this either by reselling it to the legitimate owner or by using it to fraudulently attract web traffic who may mistakenly believe the site is connected with the celebrity or brand. Cybersquatting is clearly becoming a major problem, as data from the World Intellectual Property Organization shows. According to the WIPO, it adjudicated some 2,994 cases in the year to July 2012, up six percent from the 2,775 in the previous year.

 

A particular target of cybersquatters are famed luxury brand names such as Gucci, which disputed some 100 domain names in 2012 through six legal cases, as well as Cartier, Armani, Dior and Burberry. A majority of the cybersquatted domains were registered in China, with the intention of using them to hawk counterfeit goods or selling them back to the rightful owners. However, US registrations still made up a majority of the cases brought before the WIPO, although the number of cases based in China had doubled since 2009. Many athletes who won medals in the London Olympics were also reportedly the target of cybersquatters as domains related to their names were registered through Chinese firms, with the purported intention of reselling them.

A Cyber Squatter website which has the domain name cebupacific.ph. Hmmm… I wonder if I can book flights from this site?

 

In the Philippines, harsher measures are set to be put in to place against cybersquatting. The Senate-House bicameral committee recently passed the Cybercrime Prevention Act, which provides a comprehensive legal framework for detecting and penalizing cybercrimes, such as identity theft, hacking and child pornography. The Act includes a provision penalizing parties who register a domain name for the purpose of cybersquatting, with penalties set at six to twelve years of jail time (prison mayor) or fines of at least PhP250,000 up to a maximum amount equivalent to the damage incurred. The Act has been transmitted to Malacanang for approval by the president.

 

Cybersquatting is also a growing problem in the Philippines, according to dotPH, which is the country’s official domain registry. While exact figures were not available, the registry confirmed that domain name speculation is on the rise. One famous victim of cybersquatting in the country is Senator Loren Legarda, who discovered that someone had registered lorenlegarda as a domain name and was putting it up for sale at 18,000 Euros. Legarda is one of the authors of the Cybercrime Prevention Act. But even a famous company such as Air Philippines does not own its domain name, which was registered by a private person.

 

To protect their intellectual property, dotPH is encouraging companies to proactively register their domain names, whether or not they intend to put up a web presence. But owning your domain name brings with it certain benefits, such as earning high rankings in country-specific searches due to the .ph, which identifies the site as being based in the Philippines.

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Paul Agabin is the Founder and CEO of Wooka Interactive. He is an internet marketer based in the Philippines which deals with varied topics such as local industry news, seo strategies, content marketing, inbound marketing, social media management, website reviews, and the like. You can contact him at 0917-5069839.

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