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Battle for www.azovstal.ua
Written by: Hanna Fleisher

The war in Ukraine has scaled up the well-known Azovstal brand and made it a legendary symbol. Niue, a small country in Oceania, issued a souvenir coin dedicated to the defenders of Azovstal, a private American brewery launched a beer called Azovstal, and Liberia printed postage stamps dedicated to the metallurgical plant.

Although the plant was founded as far back as 1930, only on August 15, 2022 Metinvest Holding, the sole shareholder of “Azovstal Metallurgical Plant” LLC, applied for the registration of АЗОВСТАЛЬ and AZOVSTAL trademarks in classes 01, 06, 35, 36, 39 and 42 of goods and services. Naturally, Metinvest Holding was not the only one willing to get the rights to Azovstal.

Two months earlier, “Bershad Lux” LLC submitted a similar application for the registration of АЗОВСТАЛЬ trademark in class 33 (alcoholic beverages), and the very first certificate for the AZOVSTAL trademark in class 38 (telecommunications) was issued in 2006 to an individual Oleh Bohatov.

To date, Oleh Bogatov’s arsenal includes valid certificates for the world-famous trademarks, such as Fortune, Economist, Daily, Interfax, Ukrnafta, Naftogaz and Privat.

Of course, anyone who has something to go on with intellectual property will note that a trademark can be used without state registration, for example, when it coincides with a company’s brand name, therefore this company gets rights to a commercial name. Besides, Metinvest Holding, “Bershad Lux” and Oleh Bohatov submitted trademark applications in different classes.

However!!! A trademark certificate, in addition to the possibility of its monetization, provides the right to register a domain name. For example, a certificate of Ukraine gives the owner the legal opportunity to register a domain in the .UA zone. That is what cybersquatters are hunting for.

Cybersquatting is a currently popular activity in the Internet for the registration of the domain names containing the trademarks of well-known brands or similar names for further resale.

Cybersquatters try to occupy the domain names that are completely identical or similar to the brand name of a particular company. It is an open secret that if the “Azovstal Metallurgical Plant” LLC had its own domain, it could have a name similar to www.azovstal.ua. Cybersquatters deliberately wait for the company’s interest in the domain name to grow (in the classic case – when expanding the business to other countries), and then try to sell it at a high price. On top of that, cybersquatters monitor various tendencies and trends: when public interest in brands or phenomena, for example, the heroic defense of Azovstal, increases, they can pre-register majority of the possible domain names before the topic gains popularity.

It worth noting that domain registration as such is not an illegal act. If a company has become a victim of cybersquatting, it can file a lawsuit. In most cases, the court takes the side of the right holder. That is, a company whose trademark has been registered for a long time and is actively used has many chances to defend its rights in the court and prohibit cybersquatters to use the domain.

Have you noticed that the aforestated only applies to brands that already have trademarks?

If the brand owners were daydreaming instead of registering trademarks, then the battle for the domain administration will take not months, but years. The involvement of the lawyers will cost a lot, especially in the long run. On top of that, the court may consider an attempt to protect the brand as an act of “reverse cybersquatting” – a case where companies deliberately register a trademark under a desired domain that already exists. Therefore, now, it is easier for the affected brand to pay the amount offered by the cybersquatter and get a desired domain.

Fortunately, every brand can apply universal ways to protect oneself against cybersquatting:

  • timely registration of a trademark or company name;
  • timely registration of a domain name;
  • competent registration of a domain name (preferably for a legal entity);
  • timely extension of a domain name (do not forget that the domain must be paid for once a year);
  • filing a lawsuit if you have become a victim of cybersquatters.

And, if you still wonder why the network of well-known Starbucks coffee shops has not entered Ukrainian market, the reason may be Mr. Oleh Bohatov, who also owns this trademark (certificate No. 62632, which is valid until 06.09.2025), although only in class 38 (telecommunications).

In any case, prevention is better than cure. Protect your brand today with our scientific and patent department, which will not only secure your rights, but also plan and provide protection in any country of the world.

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