WIPO Worries about Cybersquatting and Domain Name Abuse

March 28, 2008

WIPO has released a statement (27 March 2008) setting out some concerns about cybersquatting and the use of some domain names. The statement includes some fascinating facts and figures about domain name disputes. That statistical analysis of disputes makes the full statement worth reading (see http://www.wipo.int/pressroom/en/articles/2008/article_0015.html), but the main WIPO concerns are set out in the opening paragraphs of the statement as follows:

Against the background of an unprecedented number of cybersquatting cases in 2007, the evolving nature of the domain name registration system (DNS) is causing growing concern for trademark owners around the world. Last year, a record 2,156 complaints alleging cybersquatting – or the abusive registration of trademarks on the Internet – were filed with the World Intellectual Property Organization’s (WIPO) Arbitration and Mediation Center (Center), representing an 18% increase over 2006 and a 48% increase over 2005 in the number of generic and country code Top Level Domain (gTLDs and ccTLDs) disputes.
‘These increases confirm that “cybersquatting” remains a significant issue for rights holders,’ said Mr. Francis Gurry, WIPO Deputy Director General, who oversees WIPO’s dispute resolution work, noting that a number of developments in the DNS are also cause for concern from the perspective of intellectual property holders, as well as Internet users generally. Among these, use of privacy services to shield abusive registrations and the evolving role of certain domain name registrars, together with the ongoing trademark abuse reflected in WIPO’s caseload, raise concerns about the introduction of a number of new gTLDs announced for late 2008.
‘The potentially useful purposes of any new domains would be frustrated if these get filled predominantly with automated pay-per-click content,’ said Mr. Gurry, adding ‘It comes down to a question of quantity versus quality. If the stated purpose of new gTLDs is to increase choice and competition in domain registration services, due consideration must be given to ICANN’s core UDRP principles during the policy development work and implementation plans. This is not just an issue of protecting rights of trademark holders, but also an issue of the reliability of the addressing system of the Internet in matching interested parties with authentic subjects.’ Mr. Gurry said WIPO is ready to assist the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) in its policy work in this regard.