WIPO Says Cybersquatting Filings Sharply Up, Watches ICANN’s Domain Name Expansion

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Filing complaints about cybersquatting, which the World Intellectual Property Organization defines as the “abusive registration of trademarks as domain names,” is on an upward trend, WIPO Director General Francis Gurry said today. Meanwhile, WIPO also published an update of its overview of its dispute panel jurisprudence.[corrected]

There was a 28 percent increase in cybersquatting cases in 2010 compared with 2009, with 2,696 cases filed by trademark holders with the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center, Gurry told a press briefing, 16 percent higher than the previous record number of cases filed in a year.

Cybersquatting filings seem to be following the same upward trend as registrations of domain names, he said.

Cybersquatting cases are examined through the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center under the Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy and Rules (UDRP). WIPO is not the only organization to handle domain disputes. The UDRP text is here.

Some 320 panellists from 49 countries worked on the resolution of the cases, in 13 different languages, Gurry said. In 91 percent of cases, “panels found evidence of cybersquatting, deciding in favour of complainants,” according to a WIPO press release.

Disputes concerning country-code top-level domains, such as .ch (Switzerland), or .es (Spain), rose to 15 percent of all cybersquatting cases in 2010, up from just 1 percent in 2000, Gurry said.

WIPO provides domain name dispute resolution for a number of country-code top-level domains. The latest addition to this list is .br (Brazil), he said.

The top five areas of WIPO complainant activities were retail, banking and finance, biotechnology and pharmaceuticals, internet and IT, and fashion. Some 80 percent of those cases concerned registrations under .com domain, the press release said.

WIPO domain name cases in 2010 include Google, Facebook, eBay, Cadillac, Rolls-Royce, VISA, Novartis, Apple, Beyoncé, Calvin Klein, Coca-Cola, Nestlé, Hilton, and Chanel.

The announcement in June 2008 that the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), which oversees the internet domain name system, plans to increase the existing number of generic top-level domains (gTLDs, such as .com), created concern at WIPO, which has taken the side of rights holders online. The introduction of new gTLDs “should be deliberate and appropriately address increased potential for online trademark abuse and consumer confusion,” according to WIPO’s website.

ICANN is hoping to launch the new gTLDs at their next meeting in June. In a 21 March press release, ICANN said that the 20 June launch date for the expansion of the internet’s generic top level domains beyond .com, .net, and .edu “will receive broad backing from the internet community.”

Peter Dengate Thrush, ICANN Board chair, said “We’ve had other timelines before, but not one that the community and the Board feels is so achievable as this one,” according to the release [pdf].

Erik Wilbers, director of the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center, said WIPO flagged a concern last year about ICANN’s intention to revise the UDRP because of the risk of diluting “a mechanism that works quite well” for trademark holders.

Meanwhile, WIPO announced an update of its own review of UDRP panel jurisprudence today [corrected], the UDRP Overview 2.0. Click here to read more.

At their last meeting, ICANN held consultations on the expansion of top domain names, Wilbers said, and the principle that new top domain names, in large numbers, is gaining an increased acceptance. The ICANN’s expectation that the new top domain names will be launched in June remains to be confirmed, Wilbers said. In practical terms, it does not mean that new domain names will be operational soon, he said, but that may happen at the beginning of next year.

Wilbers said the WIPO filing fee for disputes – “unchanged for many years” – is $1,500, most of which goes to the panellists.

William New contributed to this story.

William New may be reached at wnew@ip-watch.ch.

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  1. WIPO Says Cybersquatting Filings Sharply Up, Watches ICANN’s Domain Name Expansion…

    Filing complaints about cybersquatting, which the World Intellectual Property Organization defines as the “abusive registration of trademarks as domain names,” is on an upward trend, WIPO Director General Francis Gurry said today. Meanwhile, WIPO also …

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