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The Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act, also known simply as ACPA, is a computer law in the United States that essentially protects individuals and companies against others who wish to profit from an Internet domain name or trademark that is popularly used by a business or brand. Prior to the enactment of ACPA the bad-faith practice of registering the domain name of a popular business or brand and then attempting to sell it to a company that usually does business under that name was commonplace. In some instances, the domain name was not offered for sale, but the registrant still attempted to profit from using the name in other ways, such as Internet advertising or some other promotion. In other cases, a domain name was not an exact match, but may have purposely been registered as a common misspelling of the name or in some other form that may have intentionally caused consumer confusion.
Very similar to the Federal Trademark Dilution Act in the United States, which prohibits the use of a trademark by one person or business in such a way as to blur or dilute the trademark of another company, the Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act also protects businesses against confusions that may be caused by similar domain names. A magistrate must make the ultimate decision as to whether or not harm is being done, but the act gives a business cause to bring a case before a court if a domain name is found to cause confusion with another name or domain name used by that business or a nickname that the business is commonly known by. The Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act not only provides protection to business owners in this way, but also attempts to provide protection to consumers who may, unknowingly, engage in business with a company based on confusion.
The act does not automatically render the use of a domain name to be off limits to another individual or a company. In cases where it can be proven that a name was in use prior to the popularity of a company issuing a complaint, a magistrate may rule in favor of the original entity that registered the name. On the other hand, at a judge’s discretion, a name that was previously used may be removed if it is determined that the name’s use is causing harm to a company also doing business under that name or nickname. The Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act, however, largely relates to incidents where a name is being misused and abused for the sole purpose of profit.
Under the Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act, if it is found that a violation has taken place, damages may be awarded to the offended party or parties. Monetary costs up to $100,000 US Dollars (USD) may be assessed. If a violation of the Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act is proven, an offended party may also ask for a reimbursement of costly attorney fees, as well.