WIPO Cybersquatting Cases Breaks Records, But Numbers Still Minuscule

The number of cybersquatting cases handled by WIPO jumped to an all time high the organisation has announced, as trademark owners filed an all-time high of 3,074 WIPO cases under the Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP), up from 3,036 in 2017 and 2,754 in 2016.

Cybersquatting disputes relating to new generic Top Level Domains (New gTLDs) accounted for more than 12% of WIPO’s 2017 caseload, which in total covered 6,370 domain names, up from 5,374 in 2017 and 4,364 in 2016. However keep in mind there were 332.4 million domain name registrations across all top level domains at the end of 2017 according to Verisign’s Domain Name Industry Brief, which means there was less than one in 52,000 domain names disputed with WIPO. WIPO is the largest dispute resolution provider, but not the only one.

Of all New gTLDs, registrations in .STORE, .SITE, and .ONLINE were the most-commonly disputed in WIPO Cases. With the addition in 2017 of .EU (European Union) and .SE (Sweden), 76 country code top level domain (ccTLD) registries have now designated WIPO’s dispute resolution service (74 in 2016 and 71 in 2015), and ccTLDs accounted for some 17% of WIPO filings in 2017. This number has been growing from 13.7% in 2015, in part at least accounted for by the extra ccTLDs.

“By abusing trademarks in the Domain Name System, cybersquatting undermines legitimate commerce and harms consumers,” said WIPO Director General Francis Gurry. “This is true especially where squatters use domain names to offer counterfeit goods or for phishing, as is seen in numerous WIPO cases. The availability of the highly effective UDRP procedure is an indispensable support for the credibility of commerce on the Internet and for protection against fraudulent practices.”

The U.S. remained the country where most WIPO UDRP cases originated, with 920 cases filed in 2017, followed by France (462), the U.K. (276), Germany (222), and Switzerland (143). In total, parties from 112 countries were involved in case filings in 2017. In 2017, WIPO appointed 298 panellists based in 45 countries, and administered proceedings in 15 different languages.

The top sectors of complainant activity were banking and finance (12% of all cases), fashion (11%), internet and IT (9%), heavy industry and machinery (8%), and food, beverages and restaurants, biotechnology and pharmaceuticals, electronics, entertainment, and retail at 6% each. (Annex 4 PDF, Annex 4: Areas of WIPO Domain Name Complainant Activity (2017))

In almost one-third of banking and finance-related decided cases filed in 2017, complainants asserted fraud, phishing or scam, the highest rate among all business sectors. In over one-third of fashion-related decided cases filed in 2017, complainants asserted counterfeiting, the second highest rate among all business sectors.

Philip Morris leads the list of filers – 91 cases – followed by Michelin, AB Electrolux, Andrey Ternovskiy (Chatroulette), Sanofi, Zions Bank, Carrefour, Virgin, Accor, and BASF and LEGO.

Since the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center administered the first UDRP case in 1999, total WIPO case filings passed the 39,000 mark in 2017, encompassing over 73,000 domain names.

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