COVID-19 Pandemic Sees Increase In Domain Disputes As WIPO Passes 50,000th Case After 20 Years

It’s taken 20 years, and an 11 percent increase in cases filed in 2020, for the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center to registered its 50,000th “cybersquatting” case, covering almost 91,000 domain names, and involving parties from over 180 countries, the organisation announced this week.

The COVID-19 pandemic has fuelled cybersquatting cases filed with the Center, adding to the record WIPO filing seen this year. From January through October 2020, the WIPO Center handled 3,405 cases, or an 11% increase over the same period during 2019.

“With a greater number of people spending more time online during the pandemic, cybersquatters are finding an increasingly target-rich environment,” said Erik Wilbers, Director of the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center. “Rights owners, meantime, are stepping up their brand enforcement on the Internet as they further shift to marketing and selling online.”

But it should not be forgotten, that while for the brand owners involved there can be serious issues as cybercriminals seek to take advantage of their brand and reputation, there are currently over 370 million domain names registered around the world.

WIPO note “many domain name registration authorities have been reporting an increase in the number of domain names registered. These may be used for news/information sites, or to provide new business offerings, but – much like social media platforms – are also being used to spread misinformation and to engage in illegal and fraudulent activities.”

While the Center, which handles dispute resolution for over 75 country code top-level domains (ccTLDs), all new generic top level domains (gTLDs) and 16 legacy gTLDs, published the amount numbers of cases and domain names disputed, it didn’t publish the number of successful cases, that is, those that “after review by qualified external panellists [if] the domain name is determined to have been registered and to be used in bad faith – the practice of cybersquatting – it is transferred to the trademark-holding complainant party.”

“The UDRP is an essential tool to help protect Internet users around the world against online deception and fraud,” said WIPO Director General Daren Tang. “The 50,000th case just received by WIPO shows that the UDRP system remains as relevant to global consumer protection as it was when WIPO proposed it over 20 years ago.”

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