Have You Received a Domain Name Cease and Desist Letter? A Lawyer’s Guide
As the Internet has grown there have been increasing numbers of cease and desist letters being sent in order to attempt to obtain domain names. Some of the letters may be legitimate attempts to obtain domain names to which the author of the letter is truly entitled. Other letters are merely unfounded attempts to obtain domain names by the use of threats and coercion. If you have received a letter or email that threatens legal action, you should carefully evaluate the threat and handle it accordingly.
A domain name cease and desist letter is a communication that alleges that you are violating the trademark rights of the sender of the letter. The letter often demands that you transfer the domain name to the person who has sent the letter by a specified deadline.
The letters are usually complicated and written with legal terminology that is virtually incomprehensible to most people. The letter may allege that you have violated the Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act or violated trademark laws. The communication may quote from the anticybersquatting law or from legal decisions in order to try to convince you that you are violating the law.
Furthermore, the communication may claim that fines and penalties can be imposed on you in the amount of several hundred thousand dollars. The letter may be on the letterhead of a law firm, it may be from a company and signed by someone claiming to be from the “legal department” or it may be sent without a signature. Cease and desist letters are usually the first step in a domain name dispute.
It is very important that you handle the situation well. Do not ignore the letter or delay in responding. Your disregard of the letter can be used against you. Some judges and arbitrators have ruled that a disregard of the letter is evidence that you are a cybersquatter (i.e., that you are hiding from the law).
If you ignore the letter, the sender may conclude that the registration information for the domain name is fraudulent, that you are hiding because you think that you’re guilty or that you have been intimidated and are fearful of the confrontation.
Consequently, a lawsuit or a UDRP proceeding may be commenced against you in order to further intimidate you and/or obtain your domain name through the legal process. Furthermore, if you delay in responding, a lawsuit or a UDRP legal proceeding may be filed against you — before you have a chance to respond and state your position. A description of the UDRP (Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy) can be found here http://www.wipo.int/amc/en/center/faq/domains.html
As you consider your response to the cease and desist letter, you will need to evaluate the legitimacy and basis of the letter. You will also need to evaluate carefully the strength of your position relative to the allegations contained in the letter. It may not be in your best interest to attempt to address legal issues without the advice of an attorney. A mistake can be costly. A domain name law firm that has an extraordinary amount of experience with domain name cease and desist letters is DomainNameLawyers.com
After you have carefully evaluated the strength of your position compared to the validity of the allegation that you should give up the domain name, you can decide whether to give up the domain name or to challenge the allegations contained in the letter.