Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, but if someone is copying your website you will want to take steps fast to have the website taken down, or at least to have the offending material removed from their site.
The problem is that it can be very difficult to identify the person or organisation that is actually guilty of the copying. If the website is malicious, defamatory or fraudulent, it is very unlikely that any contact information on the site will be correct. You can find out the registered owner of the website using “WHOIS” services, but if the website is illegitimate the details of the registrant may be false, or the website may be held in the name of a proxy.
Even if you can identify the guilty party, they might be based in a territory where you have few or no rights, making it difficult for you to take legal action against them. And even if the offender can be identified and is located somewhere where you do have enforceable rights, bringing legal proceedings against them is likely to be expensive and time-consuming.
This is not to say that it is never worth while pursuing and taking action against an infringer. There are steps which can often be taken quickly and at no great cost to have an offending website suspended or taken down.
We have had considerable success in having fraudulent websites taken down by contacting the website host and/or Internet Service Provider (ISP) directly and using their own terms and conditions to require them to suspend and ultimately take down an infringing site. This can often be done quite quickly and at low cost. This approach does require the cooperation of the website host/ISP and will not always be successful, in which case there are further steps that can be taken.
There is, of course, the risk that a website which has been taken down by one host may simply pop up again elsewhere. However, it is often the case that if the owner of the legitimate website makes life difficult for a copy-cat, the offender will simply disappear or choose an easier target.
Each case will be different and we strongly recommend obtaining legal advice before taking action. For more advice on what to do in respect of infringing domain names, copied websites or any other intellectual property matters, please contact us.
This article is for general information only. Its content is not a statement of the law on any subject and does not constitute advice. Please contact Reddie & Grose LLP for advice before taking before any action in reliance on it.