So, cybersquatters have hit Twitter and Hyundai are considering court action to prevent someone displaying racy pictures and a caption saying, “Have a lustful day” under their name on Twitter. According to this report a number of large brands including Diageo, Burger King, Nike and Volkswagen all have squatters sitting on their accounts.

The UK courts have come down hard on cybersquatters and the Court of Appeal decision in One in a Million virtually outlawed the practice. The One in a Million approach was given express approval by the Court of Session in Scotland in Bonnier Media. In addition, cybersquatters also have to contend with the cheaper and more informal online dispute resolution policies such as the ICANN policy  meaning that a trade mark proprietor or brand owner can generally get their domain name back from a blatant cybersquatter for a few thousand pounds. Obviously there are always grey areas and cybersquatters have become more sophisticated with many seeking smaller sums in order to avoid being seen to be blatantly holding domains to ransom.

So, is there likely to be a lucrative cybersquatting trade in Twitter accounts? In the UK anyway I think this is unlikely. It appears that Twitter are, at present, doing what they can to re-assign well-known brands, even if it does take some time. If this did ever come before the Courts in England or Scotland I’d be very surprised if the approach taken was any different to that taken in One in a Million; that registration of a Twitter account relating to a well-known brand amounted to passing off and, if applicable, trade mark infringement.

In the meantime, no doubt Hyundai will see a significant increase in traffic to their Twitter site.


2 Responses to “Twittersquatting”

  1. 1 ruthiain November 16, 2009 at 11:42 am

    In terms of the Twitter Rules name squatting is expressly prohibited as is the sale of a user name so theoretically there can’t be any legitimate financial gain.

    However, you pick up on the motivation in your comment. Given that resolving the issue does take time, there will be people/organisations willing to pay something to persuade a user to give up a particular name with immediate effect. You see the same thing with even blatant cybersquatting.

    Given that the Twitter Rules are so clear on this, how quickly have you found that disputes were resolved?

  2. 2 lamby November 12, 2009 at 9:36 am

    I think this is a much larger issue than people realise. I am yet to register a Twitter account for a client that is not already being squatted on and, although the process for resolving this is quite fairly straight-forward, it takes time and is a nuisance.

    It is hard to understand why people bother as there can’t be any financial gain, can there?

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