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How do I deal with domain squatting by a former employee?


I work for a small non-profit organization. The husband of one of our board members purchased a domain name for our organization (not at our request). Several weeks later the board member left the organization on bad terms. Now she and her husband refuse to allow us to use the domain name. We have offered to purchase it from them to reimburse their expense, but they refuse to respond to our emails. How do we get our domain name back??


If the domain name infringes on any trademarks owned by your nonprofit, then there are several ways to recover a domain name from a cybersquatter. You can send a cease-and-desist letter, pursue arbitration with ICANN, or file a lawsuit for trademark infringement. The lawsuit option can get expensive quickly, so it is really only practical if the value of your trademarks warrants it. Arbitration or a cease-and-desist can be relatively inexpensive as well as expeditious ways to get a domain owner to respond to your trademark infringement claim.

If the domain name does not infringe on your trademarks, then there is really no way to force the owner to sell or transfer the domain. However, there are many domain monitoring services available that will provide notifications when a domain name registration is expiring. If the domain owner does not proactively renew the domain registration prior to expiration, you may be able to take ownership of the domain at expiration. Also, you could hire a domain broker to contact the owner and negotiate the purchase on your behalf. While there is a fee to the broker and no guarantee that the domain owner will be any more responsive to the broker than they have been to you, having an intermediary involved may reduce the conflict due to the circumstances of your board member's departure.