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When their daughter, Carys Zeta Douglas, was born earlier this year, Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones gave her a present for the future: her own domain name. In fact, they gave her several: caryszetadouglas.com, caryszetadouglas.net, caryszetadouglas.org and so on — through .info, biz, .us and six other top-level domains. While the idea of reserving a corner of cyberspace for your newborn daughter sounds sweet, the couple was acting defensively — to pre-empt the very likely possibility that somebody else would register their child’s name first, then effectively hold it for ransom. Just as companies must now think in advance about brand thieves before they roll out new products, so must celebrities. Cybersquatting — registering domain names that are rightfully associated with somebody else or a company, then offering to sell them back at a steep markup — remains a problem. In 1999, Congress passed a popular law that can help owners to pry names out of a squatter’s grip. These days intellectual property attorneys have many layers of online brand abuse to worry about, such as typosquatting (registering variants of a name in the hope that surfers will land on their site, not the intended legitimate target); losing potential Web customers due to traffic diversion techniques; blackmail by pornographers; and Web-based vendors who falsely claim to be affiliated with a legitimate business. Until recently, victims of online trademark abuse had few options, none of them very appealing:

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