Published 28 April 2023, The Daily Tribune

Our economy — its ability to provide high-paying jobs for Filipino workers — is increasingly dependent upon technology. Electronic commerce or e-commerce, in particular, has been an engine of great economic growth for the Philippines.

However, there is a new form of high-tech fraud that is causing confusion and inconvenience for consumers, increasing costs for people doing business on the internet, and posing a substantial threat to a century of pre-internet Philippine business efforts.

The fraud is commonly called cybersquatting, which is defined and penalized under Republic Act No. 10175, otherwise known as the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012.

Section 4 (a) (6) of the Cybercrime Law defines cybersquatting as “the acquisition of domain names on the internet in bad faith or with the intent to gain profit, mislead, destroy one’s reputation or deprive others of registering or creating an account if such a domain is:

  1. Similar, identical, or confusingly similar to an existing trademark registered with the appropriate government agency at the time of the domain name registration;
  2. Identical or in any way similar to the name of a person other than the registrant, in case of a personal name; and
  3. Acquired without right or with intellectual property interests in it.

Cybersquatting can be referred to, generally, as the registration of a domain name that is similar to a known website, with the malicious intent to profit from an established brand’s goodwill among consumers, or to destroy such brand’s reputation.

Cybersquatters seeking to profit from a brand’s goodwill and reputation register a domain name that is similar to it with very little or no variation at all.

To protect victims of cybercrimes, our Cybercrime Law imposes tough penalties on cybersquatting.

In the United States, large companies like BBC News, Dell, and eBay had to fight cybersquatters who had registered domains that broke trademark laws.

In the Philippines, ABS-CBN Corp. also had to deal with cybersquatters and copyright infringers before a US court. In 2021,  ABS-CBN Corp. won a $21-million lawsuit against almost 21 pirate website operators, which were streaming portals offering free access to ABS-CBN content in the United States and other countries.

Relevant to this article, was ordered to pay another $10,000 in cybersquatting damages for the TV company’s domain name, which is confusingly similar to one of ABS-CBN’s registered trademarks.

Indeed, cybersquatting is a serious issue that can be severely detrimental to any business with a website or online presence in general. Although protecting an important brand name online can be costly, there are tremendous benefits for those who have ownership of the right domain name.

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