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Stop disgruntled staff from hijacking your Web domains

by on
in Employment Law,Human Resources

Issue: Former employees with an ax to grind against your organization can register Web domain names that your organization may want for itself.

Benefit: You can prevent them from doing that, or at least reserve legal recourse for your organization.

Action: Include provisions in employment contracts and severance agreements prohibiting former employees from registering any Web domains related to your organization.

Here's a way to prevent employees and ex-employees from ripping off your organization's rightful Web addresses: Include wording in your employment contracts and severance packages that secure your rights to any organization-related Web addresses (or "domain names").

Could this really be a problem? Yes. In recent years, Internet profiteers and disgruntled ex-employees have rushed to scoop up domain names of several popular companies just to sell them back to the companies.

But the federal Anti-Cybersquatting Consumer Protection Act (ACPA) of 1999 gives you the right to sue anyone who registers a domain name similar to yours with intent to profit.

Recent case: A Ford employee registered the Web address, www.fordworld.com, which corresponds to the name of the company's employee newspaper. The employee sent an e-mail to Ford execs saying he had offers to buy the domain but wanted to "extend an opportunity" to Ford to buy the domain first.

Ford sued the employee, claiming he tried to profit from the sale of a domain that was identical to a company trademark, and it won. The court also said it didn't matter that the employee registered the domain name before the anti-cybersquatting law took effect. (Ford Motor Co. v. Catalanotte, No. 02-1237, 6th Cir., 2003)

Final note: Ask your IT department to identify potentially valuable domain names, and register them in your organization's name.

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