WIPO’s Annual Rant Shows Cybersquatting Not Only Growing In New gTLDs, But .COM Too

The World Intellectual Property Organization has released its 2016 report on cybersquatting. In 2016 the number of cases filed under the Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP) with the dispute resolution body rose 10% over the previous year to “an all-time record 3,036 cases” while domain names disputed rose by 23.1% to 5,374.

These are significant increases and an unwanted cost by trademark holders. A large part of the increase has to do with new generic top level domains. For new gTLDs cybersquatting disputes rose to 16% of WIPO’s 2016 caseload while, according to the most recent Domain Name Industry Brief from Verisign, they represent represented 7.2% of total domain name registrations at the end of 2016.

Verisign also reported that at the end of 2016 there were 329.3 million domain name registrations across all top level domains, which means the total number of disputed domains is still tiny. Global registrations grew by 6.8% for the year.

On the new gTLDs, in 2016 there were 321 .xyz domain names disputed, or 6.85% of all disputed domains compared to 62 (1.63%) in 2015 while it rose from fifth to second-most dispute TLD. For .top likewise there was an increase from the twelfth to fourth most disputed TLD with disputes rising from 13 in 2015 to 153 in 2016. Of course, the number of domains in both TLDs has also risen markedly, from under 1.8 million at the end of 2015 for .xyz to almost 6.7 million a year later while for .top the rise was from 968,000 to 4.78 million.

For .com, which had the most disputes by far, registrations grew by 2.3% from 124 million to 126.9 million. However disputes with .com domains grew from 2,732 in 2015 to 3,135 in 2016, a significant increase of 14.6% when compared to the growth in registrations, while .com’s proportion of disputed domains lodged with WIPO fell from 71.71% to 66.89%.

Country code Top Level Domains (ccTLDs) accounted for some 14% of WIPO filings, with 74 national domain registries designating this WIPO dispute resolution service, which is similar to 2015 when they accounted for 13.7% of all filings in 2015, with 71 registries designating this WIPO dispute resolution service.

While there are other dispute resolution bodies and procedures, WIPO handles more disputes than others. And their numbers are misleading as they don’t reflect the changes in registration numbers.

“The continuing growth in cybersquatting cases worldwide shows the need for continued vigilance by trademark owners and consumers alike,” said WIPO Director General Francis Gurry. “This is even more important as a considerable number of these disputes involve incidents of online counterfeiting. In such cases, WIPO assists in restoring these domain names to trademark owners, thereby curbing consumer deception.”

WIPO UDRP cases in 2016 involved parties from 109 countries. Among the countries where filings originated, the U.S. remained first with 895 cases filed, followed by France (466), Germany (273), the U.K. (237) and Switzerland (180). Among the top five filing countries, France (+38%) saw the highest growth in cases filed.

The top sectors of complainant activity were banking and finance (12% of all cases), fashion (9%), heavy industry and machinery (9%), internet and IT (8%), biotechnology and pharmaceuticals (7%) and retail (7%). Philip Morris leads the list of filers – 67 cases – followed by AB Electrolux (51) and Hugo Boss, LEGO, and Michelin (42 each). In 2016 WIPO appointed 305 panellists from 47 countries, and administered proceedings in 15 different languages.