Disputed Domains Heard By WIPO Increases 18% in 2009

Posted in: Domain Names at 23/03/2010 21:51

In 2009, the number of disputed domain names arbitrated by WIPO jumped for the third consecutive year, jumping by 18.5 per cent to 4,688 from 3,958 in 2008. This compares to an increase in domain registrations of eight percent over the same period to 192 million from 177 million in 2008.

However there was a decrease in domain name disputes heard by WIPO's (World Intellectual Property Organization) dispute resolution services, with the number heard decreasing from 2,329 to 2,107.

Since the UDRP's launch in December 1999, the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center (the Center) has received more than 17,000 UDRP-based cases. A total of some 31,000 domain names covering both generic and country code Top Level Domains (gTLDs and ccTLDs) have been handled by WIPO.

WIPO also expressed concerns on the possibility of an increase in domain disputes with the introduction of new generic Top Level Domains, claiming "the associated potential for trademark abuse is a serious concern for brand owners and users. There are also concerns that this move will inhibit the development of an innovative Domain Name System that minimizes consumer confusion."

However the minimal number of domain names disputed in the new gTLDs already introduced would seem to contradict their concerns. There were 33 disputed .MOBI domain names making up 0.77 per cent of all disputed domain names in the gTLDs. For .BIZ there were eleven disputed domain names (0.70%), .PRO (11 or 0.26%), .ASIA,.NAME, .TEL (each with 6 or 0.14%) and .TRAVEL (4 or 0.09%).

This compares to the number of disputed country code Top Level Domains that were disputed, rising to 14.4 per cent of all disputed domains in 2009 from 13.7 per cent in 2008. In 2000 they made up 0.9 per cent of all cases and in 2005 6.5 per cent. This is partly a result of WIPO hearing disputes for more ccTLDs, adding six more in 2009.

One of the most popular sectors for disputed domain names was sport, with football/soccer featuring strongly in WIPO's caseload including the upcoming World Cup. English Premier League teams Fulham, Liverpool, Manchester United, Tottenham and West Ham brought a consolidated action against a single respondent engaged in selling tickets via domain names which included their respective club names. The decision established an important precedent about whether and when WIPO complainants are entitled to bring a consolidated complaint against a respondent. Other football related complaints were filed on behalf of the South African Football Association, AC Milan, and Manchester City FC.

The top five areas of complainant activity were biotechnology and pharmaceuticals, banking and finance, Internet and IT, retail, and food, beverages and restaurants, all accounting for more than seven per cent of all complaints. As in past years, pharmaceutical manufacturers brought the largest number of cases due to permutations of protected names on web sites offering or linking to online sales of medications. The WIPO Center's caseload in 2009 covered a wide range of business and public interest sectors.

"The UDRP has proven to be a pioneering and globally applicable low-cost alternative to court litigation. It offers a practical solution to the abusive registration of trademarks as domain names, a very real issue where the practical effect, legal status and desired outcome are normally not confined to any particular location," said WIPO Director General Francis Gurry.

"Another key element of the UDRP's popularity is the straightforward enforcement of panel decisions, without need for further judicial intervention, although this still remains an option. The UDRP can provide inspiration for alternative self-regulation in areas of commerce and other human activity that cross jurisdictional borders," said Mr. Gurry. He noted, in particular, the relevance of a UDRP-type approach to resolving disputes arising from a range of uses of identity on the Internet, such as on social networking sites, auction platforms and in search engines.

Parties based in 114 countries were named in WIPO cases in 2009, up 10% on the previous year, reflecting the global reach of cybersquatting and WIPO's services. In 2009, the Inter-Continental Hotel Group filed the largest UDRP dispute on record, involving 1,542 domain names in a single WIPO case.

Cases in 2009 were handled by 310 WIPO panellists from 46 countries. Although down 2% from 2008, English remained the most common language for WIPO proceedings (84%), largely because the majority of domain names involved were registered with US-based registrars.

Cases were also processed in 13 other languages, including (in order of frequency) Spanish, French, Dutch, German, Chinese, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Swedish, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, and Turkish. The character set of the disputed domain names themselves remained overwhelmingly ASCII (English alphabet), with a small number of domain names in Chinese, Danish, French, German, Turkish and Spanish.

The United States of America (USA), France, the United Kingdom (UK), Germany, Switzerland and Spain remained the most frequent bases for complainants through 2009. The USA, UK, China, Canada, Spain, and the Republic of Korea were cited most frequently as respondents in alleged cybersquatting cases.

Among Top Level Domains, the .com gTLD remained the solid leader in terms of the number of domain names featuring in WIPO cases (87%).

Almost 24% of all cases filed in 2009 were settled prior to a panel decision. Of the remainder, 87% of the panel decisions ordered the transfer of the domain name(s) to the complainant (or cancellation of the name), and 13% denied the complaints, leaving the names in the possession of the registration holder.

For more information including tables and graphs that go with the WIPO report, see:
www.wipo.int/pressroom/en/articles/2010/article_0007.html


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