Typosquatting is the process of acquiring similarly spelled or misspelled domain names for the purpose of capturing traffic intended for another website. Typosquatters profit from this conduct in multiple ways, such as providing pop-ups for third-party advertisers, capturing fraudulent payment information, or even selling the domain to owners of the legitimate website who wish to prevent further confusion.
Typosquatting is actionable under the Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act ("ACPA"). The ACPA was designed to prohibit bad-faith and abusive registrations of distinctive marks as internet domain names with the intent to profit from the goodwill associated with such marks. The act, in part, states that:
- A person shall be liable in a civil action by the owner of a mark, including a personal name which is protected as a mark under this section, if, without regard to the goods or services of the parties, that person
- has a bad faith intent to profit from that mark, including a personal name which is protected as a mark under this section; and
- registers, traffics in, or uses a domain name that
- in the case of a mark that is distinctive at the time of registration of the domain name, is identical or confusingly similar to that mark;
- in the case of a famous mark that is famous at the time of registration of the domain name, is identical or confusingly similar to or dilutive of that mark; or
- is a trademark, word, or name protected by reason of section 706 of Title 18 or section 220506 of Title 36.
While the term "typosquatting" is not expressly written in the act, the ACPA has been interpreted as prohibiting such conduct. Indeed, California courts have held that the phrase "confusingly similar," as used in the ACPA, includes the intentional registration of domain names that are misspellings of distinctive or famous names, causing an internet user who makes a slight spelling or typing error to reach an unintended site.
Typosquatting may carry a significant punishment under the ACPA. The act provides victims with a right to statutory damages "not less than $1,000 and not more than $100,000 per domain name" in order to provide restitution of profit to the legitimate domain holder. However, injunctions are also commonly sought to combat typosquatting.
[Last updated in September of 2021 by the Wex Definitions Team]