A Victory against Cybersquatters

7 February 2000
A federal magistrate judge swung a heavy bat against cybersquatters last week by handing over the ownership of 20 domain names to Bell Atlantic Corp. The decision marks the first time in which a trademark holder successfully used the "in rem" provision found in the recently passed anticybersquatting act.

The "in rem" (Latin for 'against the thing') provision allows the actual domain names to be sued, instead of the individual domain holders. Courts can use "in rem" to transfer ownership of the disputed domain names without the knowledge or presence of the registrant, making it far easier for many corporations to pursue cybersquatting cases. Before ownership can be transferred, plaintiffs must show they exercised good faith efforts to contact the registrant.

Actual transfer of ownership is waiting for final approval from the presiding federal judge, which Bell Atlantic Intellectual Property Attorney Sarah Deutsch told Newsbytes is given in virtually "99 percent" of such cases.