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A couple years ago while traveling back and forth between Orlando and Hollywood my URL StevenSamblis.com expired. I was on the road almost every weekend doing movie junkets and filming for my TV show “The Hollywood Fast Lane”. With so much going on, it just fell through the cracks.
I will say that I am like most people and never realized how important it is to own your name. I’m not Brad Pitt or a famous actor. My show and interviews have been seen by millions of people across a wide array of platforms. I’ve been quoted in Time Magazine and the Wall Street Journal. But it was never in my head how important owning my name would be until one day when a cybersquatter bought my name and every version of it he could find. Then he bought every version of my company name and the name of my shows.
On these sites he took all my public photos off of Facebook and populated the sites. He named the off shoot sites “Friends of Steven Samblis”. This was beyond weird but what could possibly go wrong?
Then I got the email…
The Cyber Squarer who called himself Larry was willing to sell me my name, all the versions of my name and the versions of my company name websites for about 20 times what it cost him to register. He jokingly said in his email that the sites where very positive right now but it would be bad if they became negative. I had no idea at the time it was a warning either buy the sites or he would use them to try to hurt me.
This was a whole new world to me. I started to google about this issue and that’s where I learned the term Cyber Squatter.
Cyber Squatters like Larry are bottom feeders that will find people who are gaining notoriety and begin registering their names as URLs, they then make their presence known and offer to sell the sites to their victims for a huge profit. For me Larry was stealing my photos from Facebook and tagging them on his cyber squatter site so I would find them in a goggle search.
Well, being me, I told Cyber Squatter Larry, to pound sand. That’s when he started his attacks. Almost daily he would write ridiculous stuff about me for the single purpose of hurting my name.
I was able to find a lawyer in Salt Lake City that specializes in these matters. The attorney, Steven Rinehart, spent a great deal of time with me, helping me understand what could be done. Steven was so appalled by this cyber squatters actions that he agreed to help me on what seemed to be a very personal level.
It turns out the law is really clear on this matter. You cannot take a trademark and use that trademark to attack the trademark holder. This is different then free speech. As an example if Larry the cyber squatter created a website called SamblisSucks.com he could write whatever he wants about me as long as its not slanderous. But, he can’t use my trademark samblis.com and attack me using that name to get people to come to the site. If I can prove I own my trademark he will be forced to hand the sites over to me and the minimum statutory fine is 100k per site.
BTW… When I learned this from my attorney, I registered SamblisSucks.com and every other vile version of my name I could think of.
We filed for a trademark for my name January 8th 2015. This is something I never thought even possible. Today September 1st 2015, we got an email with the news. I officially own my name Reg. No. 4,803,169.
This means that we can now sue Cyber Squatter Larry and get back all my names and have him take down all the attack sites he created and receive a nice big fine for each one of his attack sites.
Moral of the story. Protect your name. If you don’t own your name as a URL, register it. Even if you are like me and could never imagine anyone would care enough to take the time to try to extort money from you.
I now proudly present my trademark certificate… (Golf Clap)