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Anti-Cybersquatting Bill Clears

July 30, 1999

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The Senate Judiciary Committee approved legislation Thursday aimed at limiting so-called cybersquatting by people who register Internet domain names with the purpose of selling them later.

Domain names are the addresses computer users enter to access a particular Web site. They are sandwiched between ``www.″ and ``.com,″ ``.net″ or ``.org.″

Some people have found a lucrative practice in registering Web addresses using the trademarks of famous companies in hopes of later forcing the companies to pay sizable amounts of money to buy the rights to the Internet locations.

The legislation to limit the practice was sponsored by a bipartisan group including Judiciary Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch, R-Utah.

Approved by voice vote and sent to the full Senate, the bill would allow trademark owners to recover statutory damages in cases where it is proven that a trademarked name was registered in bad faith by a person who intended to unfairly profit from its sale.

The measure also would allow trademark owners to seek the forfeiture, cancelation or transfer of an infringing domain name after satisfying the court that it has tried but was unable to locate the person who registered it.

Hatch said many cybersquatters register domain names under aliases or otherwise provide false information, which makes it difficult for corporations and others to locate them.

The bill also would encourage registrars of domain names to work with companies to prevent cybersquatting. But it contains no criminal penalties.

Hatch said the practice harms the public by eroding consumer confidence and hurting businesses by tarnishing the ``goodwill value″ associated with their names.

Last week, the committee heard numerous tales consumer confusion stemming from the false registration of domain names.

In one case, it learned of a cybersquatter who registered the names ``attphonecard.com″ and ``attcallingcard.com,″ allegedly to sell calling cards, and solicited personal information, including credit card numbers, Hatch said.

Other examples involved the Dell computer company and automaker Porsche.


The bill is S. 1255.

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