Out-Law / Your Daily Need-To-Know

There has been a 20% increase in the number of cybersquatting disputes over the past year, according to the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). A possible reason is the recent introduction of new generic top-level domains.

A total of 1,456 cybersquatting cases – i.e. abusive registrations of trade marks as domain names – were filed with WIPO’s Arbitration and Mediation Center in 2005. That's 280 more than in 2004 and represents the Center's biggest caseload since 2001.

One reason for the increase could be the recent approval of several new generic top-level domains (gTLDs) by ICANN, the body that manages the internet's domain name system. Cybersquatters seem to have taken advantage of the introduction of these domains – including .jobs and .travel – to file a new batch of exploitative registrations.

Francis Gurry, Deputy Director General of WIPO, who oversees the work of the Center, said the rise "underlines the need for continued vigilance by intellectual property owners."

He also noted that, while 80% of disputes relate to .com names, attention must also be paid to the establishment of robust preventive mechanisms against abusive registration in new gTLDs.

"If domain names are randomly attributed in new domains, intellectual property owners will be forced to compete with cybersquatters for their own trade marks – unless additional preventive safeguards are introduced," he added.

The Center published a report in 2005 setting out some recommendations for dealing with the problem. The report, New Generic Top-Level Domains: Intellectual Property Considerations, recommended the introduction of a uniform preventive intellectual property protection mechanism in all new gTLDs, in order to complement the curative relief provided by the UDRP.

The agency has handled over 8,350 disputes, involving parties from 127 countries and covering some 16,000 domain names, since the Uniform Dispute Resolution Policy came into effect in December 1999.

Of these, 8,054 (96.41%) have been resolved, says WIPO. In the 6,349 decisions they have rendered, WIPO panels have found for the complainant in 5,327 (83.9%) cases. The remainder of the resolved cases were settled by the parties.

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