The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) recently announced that the number of cybersquatting cases has reached an all time high. In 2010, trademark holders filed 2,696 cybersquatting cases relating to some 4,370 domain names with the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center (WIPO Center) under procedures based on the Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP). This spike in the number of domain name disputes caused by cybersquatting represents an increase of 28% over the 2009 level and of 16% over the previous record year, 2008.
Cybersquatting is the act of registering a popular Internet address, such as a company name or the name of a famous individual, with the intent of selling it to who the real world would perceive to be the “rightful” owner of that address or using the name to unlawfully collect traffic and do business off the name of the company or famous individual. Thanks to the Trademark Cyberpiracy Prevention Act, which was passed as part of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2000, cybersquatting is specifically prohibited by statute in the United States. The TCPA is codified primarily at 15 USC 1125(d) and 15 USC 1129(b). Notwithstanding, it continues to be a major problem, as you can see from the case filing statistics below.
Despite being against the law in the United States those facing cybersquatters are always better off to catch the problem quickly and proceed with mandatory Arbitration, for example through WIPO’s domain name dispute resolution. For a dispute that has between 1 and 5 domain names the filing fee for a single panelist is $1,500 USD, and if you would like a panel of three arbitrators the cost is $4,000 USD. See WIPO filing fees. Of course, there are likely going to be attorneys fees associated with putting the complaint together and filing, but even with attorneys fees to prepare and file the complaint and forward the complaint through the system you are looking at a fraction of the cost of resorting to litigation in a State or Federal Court in the United States. Moreover, Arbitration is mandatory, which means that it really doesn’t matter if the scoundrel cybersquatting participates or not. By registering a domain name everyone agrees to submit to Arbitration under the UDRP, so even those who refuse to communicate with you and might be found only in some remote part of the world can be reached and the domain name wrestled away.
Cases filed with WIPO in 2010 included parties from 57 different countries, and the cases were decided by 327 panelists from 49 different countries in 13 different languages. The predominant languages in order of frequency are: English, Spanish, French, Dutch, German, Chinese, Korean, Portuguese, Italian, Turkish, Romanian, Swedish, and Japanese. In 91% of cases, panels found evidence of cybersquatting, deciding in favor of complainants.
The top five areas of WIPO complainant activity were retail, banking and finance, biotechnology and pharmaceuticals, Internet and IT, and fashion. WIPO’s 2010 caseload featured well-known names from business and public interest sectors. Most of these cases (82%) concerned registrations in the .com domain.
Among WIPO cases, the percentage related to country code Top Level Domains rose to 15% of all cases in 2010 from just 1% in 2000. National registries designating WIPO to provide domain name dispute resolution services increased to 65 in 2010 from 62 in 2009. Among the new additions, the policy for the .BR domain of Brazil is inspired by the UDRP but also imports several modifications specific to expressed local needs.
Since the UDRP’s launch in December 1999, the WIPO Center has received over 20,000 UDRP-based cases, covering some 35,000 domain names in both generic and country code Top Level Domains (gTLDs and ccTLDs).
“The WIPO Center is the leading provider of domain name dispute services and provides a rich range of resources for users and the general public. The just-released major update to the WIPO Overview is an excellent illustration of these resources and reflects the long experience of the WIPO Center,” said WIPO Director General Francis Gurry.
The WIPO Overview referenced by Gurry, referred to as WIPO Overview 2.0, is a newly released compendium of everything you need to know about dispute resolution proceeds. WIPO Overview 2.0 addresses questions that commonly arise in proceedings under the UDRP, as well as information on panel positions on key procedural and substantial issues. In fact, the WIPO Overview 2.0 includes new decision references supporting each line of opinion, with over 380 decisions from over 180 different UDRP panelists. “The revised WIPO Overview distills panel findings in thousands of domain name cases filed with WIPO since its launch,” added Mr. Gurry.
In addition to domain names disputes, the WIPO Center in 2010 continued to administer cases under the WIPO Mediation, Arbitration, and Expedited Arbitration Rules. As of December 2010, the WIPO Center had administered 240 mediations and arbitrations, the majority of which were filed in the last six years by large companies, small and medium sized enterprises, research organizations and universities. These cases involved a range of issues, such as patent infringement, patent licenses, information technology transactions (including telecommunications), distribution agreements for pharmaceutical and consumer products, copyright issues, research and development agreements, trademark co-existence agreements, art marketing, artistic production, and media-related agreements, joint venture agreements, and cases arising out of agreements in settlement of prior multi-jurisdictional intellectual property litigation.
In May 2010, the WIPO Center also established a presence in Singapore. With the increasing economic importance of the Asia Pacific region, the disputes that are an unavoidable part of doing business can benefit from alternative dispute resolution options, especially in cross-border transactions. This new Singapore activity includes the provision of party guidance and training in intellectual property alternative dispute resolution.
In addition to case services under the WIPO Rules, the WIPO Center also works with industry associations to develop dispute resolution procedures tailored to their specific needs. For example, in 2010 the WIPO Center developed WIPO Expedited Arbitration Rules for EGEDA, the collecting society that represents and defends the interests of audiovisual producers in Spain.