The world today is indeed
a global village.  It has revolved around
technology and the internet. With the advent of internet, individuals can establish
various businesses and register such business online and in doing so, they maintain
a personal or official domain name. 

A domain name is a unique name that an
individual or organization chooses to identify its website. Every website has a
domain name which comprises of a registered internet protocol (IP) address. An
example is Since customers and clients try to find businesses
online, some individuals register this domain names identical to the company’s
or individual trademarks and then attempts to sell to its owner. These
individuals are known as cyber-squatters. Cyber-squatters have robbed
businesses of their fortune and it is a threat to legitimate business owners in
this digital era. 
 Cyber- squatting, also known as domain
squatting is the act of registering or using a domain name in bad faith. The
person who registers this domain name has no affiliation with such name. It is
usually done with the intention of making profits by selling to its owners.

Anyone can be a victim of
cyber- squatting. The usual targets are however, businesses, Politicians and
celebrities. Some famous cases of cyber-squatting are Linda Ikeji, Donald
Trump, Konga, eBay and so on.

Cyber-squatting is a major
issue in Information and Comunications Technology and its far reaching
implications has brought about a need to regulate this problem. In 2015, the Cybercrimes (Prevention, Prohibition, e.t.c)
brought about a framework that governed various aspects of online activities
including cyber-squatting.

Cyber-squatting was
defined in Section 58 as the
acquisition of a domain name over the internet in bad faith to profit, mislead,
destroy reputation and deprive others from registering same if such domain name

identical, or confusingly similar to an existing trademark registered with the
appropriate government agency at the time of the domain name registration

identical or in any way
similar with the name of a person other than the registrant, in case of a
personal name; and

acquired without right or
with intellectual property interests in it.

An example usually occurs
where, C buys, when the company has not yet created a website and C
thereafter sells to cowbell at a later date for profit. Another example is
where, my name is Madu Blessing. I am a prolific writer and my books are best
sellers. A, registers a domain with the name If A’s reason for
doing so is to;

profit financially

mislead the public

destroy my reputation as a writer or

deprive me from registering same

Then, A can be regarded as
a cyber-squatter.

of the Act stipulated the punishment for cyber-squatters
and it provides thus:

“A person who, intentionally takes or makes use of a name,
business name, trademark, domain name or other word or phrase registered, owned
or in use by any individual, body corporate or belonging to either the Federal,
State or Local Government in Nigeria, on the internet or any other computer
network, without authority or right, and for the purpose of interfering with
their use by the owner, registrant or legitimate prior user, commits an offence
under this Act and is liable on conviction to imprisonment for a term of not
more than 2 years or a fine of not more than =N5,000,000.00 or both.”

The major
ingredients to note here is that;

the offender must have an intention to
interfere with the owners name , business name,
trademark, and domain name

the owners name , business name, trademark, and domain name must be owned or be in use
by the owner

the act must have been carried out in the
internet or any computer network

the act must have been without authority

The court exercises wide
discretion when awarding penalties against convicted offenders. Section 25(2) further stipulates what a
court must take into consideration when awarding penalty. The court considers;

by the offender to relinquish, upon formal request by the rightful owner of the
name, business name, trademark, domain name or

attempt by the offender to obtain compensation in any form for the release to
the rightful owner for use of the name, business name, trademark, domain name

addition to the penalty specified under this section, the court may make an
order directing the offender to relinquish such registered name, mark,
trademark, domain name, or other word or phrase to the rightful owner.

can victims protect themselves from cyber-squatters?

are numerous ways a victim can protect himself from cyber-squatters and they

1.      Making
a complaint at Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) –
ICANN makes use of UDRP (Uniform Domain 
Name Dispute Resolution Policy). This is an online dispute resolution
mechanism that handles ownership of domain name disputes. The owner of a domain
name can file a complaint before ICANN accredited dispute resolution service
provider. ICANN would either cancel such domain name or order that it be
transferred to the rightful owner. Some conditions must be fulfilled before a
complaint may be made to UDRP and they are;

the domain name must be identical or
similar to an existing trademark or service mark in which the complainant has

the complainant must prove that the cyber-squatter
has no rights or legitimate interest in the domain name

the domain name has been registered and it
is been used in bad faith.

Thus, it is only the owner
of a registered trademark that can successfully file a complaint. Complaints
can only be brought  by those whose
domain name is gTLD (generic top level domains) or Country code top-level

2.      Proceedings
under Nigeria Internet Registration Association( NIRA)

This is the Nigerian
Registry for .ng domain names. The owner of a domain name may institute his
action at NIRA if his domain name is a ccTLD and ends with .ng. It has its own
dispute resolution policies and rules. The conditions to be satisfied before a
complaint is brought and the remedies available are same as bringing an action
under ICANN.

3.      Institute
Proceedings under the Cyber CrimesAct

Cyber-squatting is a
criminal offence and it is prohibited under Section 25. Cyber-squatters are
liable to imprisonment of two years or a fine of N5, 000,000 or both. To
institute an action, the domain name owner does not need to have a trademark so
long as his registered business name is the domain name. The complainant is
required to file an action with the police before an action can be commenced.
The court exercises its discretion in awarding penalty.

4.      Bringing
an action under Civil Wrong

Cyber-squatting cuts
across several areas of law including Intellectual Property, Trademark, Passing
off, and Deceit and so on. An action can be instituted under the Trade Marks
Act because the Act accommodates actions arising from domain name disputes and
cyber-squatting where the domain name is a registered trademark.

Cyber-squatting is not
only regarded as a crime but it is seen as a serious threat to business. Thus,
to prevent cyber-squatting, business owners should secure their domain names by
registering their trademarks at the start of business before it is too late.

Blessing .C.  Madu