Evictions of cybersquatters on the rise under UN resolution process

23 March 2010

Some of the teams playing in this year’s World Cup soccer competition in South Africa participated in the thousands of cybersquatting trademark cases resolved quickly under the auspices of the United Nations intellectual property agency, according to figures released today.

“The UDRP [Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy] has proven to be a pioneering and globally applicable low-cost alternative to court litigation,” said Francis Gurry, Director General of the UN World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO).

The UDRP is a process established with input from WIPO, designed specifically to discourage and resolve the abusive registration of trademarks as domain names, commonly known as cybersquatting.

“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,” Mr. Gurry added.

Since the UDRP’s launch in December 1999, the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Centre has received more than 17,000 UDRP-based cases from 114 countries.

Among them, a consolidated action suit by a group of soccer teams in the English Premier League – Fulham, Liverpool, Manchester United, Tottenham and West Ham – which alleged that a person was selling tickets to the World Cup through websites with domain names that includes their respective club names.

The largest UDRP dispute on record involved the Inter-Continental Hotel Group, which filed a complaint in 2009 involving 1,542 domain names.

According to WIPO, pharmaceutical manufacturers as an industry raised the most complaints, mostly over the use of protected names on web sites offering or linking to online sales of medications.

Geographically, the United States, France, the United Kingdom, Germany, Switzerland and Spain raised the most complaints, and the alleged culprits were most likely to come from the US, UK, China, Canada, Spain, and the Republic of Korea.

Of the 2,107 cases filed last year, nearly a quarter were settled prior to a panel decision. In 87 per cent of the remaining cases, the panel ordered the cancellation of the domain name or its transfer back to the complainant.

Squatters won in about 13 per cent of the complaints and were able to keep the names.

Mr. Gurry noted that part of UDRP’s popularity is the straightforward enforcement of panel decisions without the need for a formal lawsuit, although that remains an option.

The method of lodging complaints is also more straightforward, as WIPO became a paperless operation at the end of last year.

In addition to cybersquatting, WIPO has also resolved disputes rising from a range of uses of identity on the Internet, including on social networking sites, auction platforms and in search engines.


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