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HEARD ON THE BEAT: Technology

Hatch Finds 'Cybersquatter' on Campaign Trail

August 23, 1999|KAREN KAPLAN

U.S. senator and presidential candidate Orrin Hatch has become the latest victim of "cybersquatting"--the practice of registering domain names in the hopes they can be sold to others at a steep profit.

Joseph Culligan, a Miami private detective and would-be domain name broker, has offered to sell "senatorhatch.com," "senatororrinhatch.com" and "elainehatch.com"--a reference to Hatch's wife--to the Utah Republican for $45,000. Those are just some of the dozens of domain names Culligan has registered and is offering for sale online at http://www.domain-webnamesforsale.com. (Others include "williamclinton.com," "presidentalgore.com" and "presidentgeorgebush.com.")

Hatch's official campaign site is at http://www.orrinhatch.org, and he has refused to pay Culligan to recover additional domain names. Culligan was able to register them because domain names are doled out on a first-come, first-served basis.

Hatch became a target partly because he is co-sponsor of the Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act, which would make it easier for trademark holders to sue cybersquatters. Last month, Hatch, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, denounced cybersquatting as "fraud, deception and the bad-faith trading on the goodwill of others."

But Culligan says the bill's focus on trademarks is too narrow. The fact that he has registered so many domains featuring permutations of Hatch's name proves his point, he says. But until the practice is outlawed, he will try to profit from it.

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