Cybersquatting disputes rose last year, U.N. agency says

Disputes over the practice of cybersquatting rose sharply last year, with nearly 2,700 cases filed for arbitration with the United Nations agency charged with protecting inventions, trademarks, industrial designs and copyright.

The number of arbitration and mediation cases filed represented a 28 per cent increase over the previous year, according to a press release issued by the U.N. World Intellectual Property Organization.

Cybersquatting general refers to the practice of registering, offering for sale or using a domain name with the aim of profiting from a trademark that belongs to someone else. It can also involve buying up domain names that use the names of existing businesses with the intention of selling the same names to those firms.

Parties filing cases with World Intellectual Property Organization last year took advantage of user-friendly online facilities such as the paperless procedure initiated by the entity’s Arbitration and Mediation Centre.

“The WIPO Centre is the leading provider of domain name dispute services and provides a rich range of resources for users and the general public,” said Francis Gurry, director general of the agency.

The cases – which involved some 4,370 domain names – were decided by 327 panellists from 49 countries in 13 different languages, namely English, Spanish, French, Dutch, German, Chinese, Korean, Portuguese, Italian, Turkish, Romanian, Swedish, and Japanese. In 91 per cent of the cases, panels found evidence of cybersquatting, deciding in favor of complainants.

The top five areas of complainant activity were retail, banking and finance, biotechnology and pharmaceuticals, Internet and information technology, and fashion. The World Intellectual Property Organization’s 2010 caseload featured well-known names from business and public interest sectors, and most of those concerned registrations in the .com domain.

Arbitration requests related to country code domains rose to 15 per cent, while national registries designating the World Intellectual Property Organization to provide domain name dispute resolution services increased to 65 in 2010 from 62 in 2009.

Based in Geneva, the Arbitration and Mediation Centre was established in 1994 to offer alternative dispute resolution options for the resolution of international commercial disputes between private parties.

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