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Domain Name Cybersquatting Cases Increase In 2017

March 19, 2018

An all-time high of 3,074 cybersquatting cases were brought before the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) by trademark owners under the Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP) in 2017.

Cybersquatting is the practice of a party registering a domain name associated with a business, organisation or even person they have no involvement with. Sometimes cybersquatting can occur out of ignorance, but at times its done to hold companies and brands to ransom. For example, a party may register a name that is identical or very similar to a business, then attempt to sell the domain name to the business. It may also be done to sell competing products or use another company's brand recognition to lure visitors.

An even more nefarious application is where it is carried out for the purposes of fraud - posing as the company in order to harvest personal and/or financial details from that company's customers, or to sell counterfeit products.

"By abusing trademarks in the Domain Name System, cybersquatting undermines legitimate commerce and harms consumers," said WIPO Director General Francis Gurry 

WIPO was kept busy last year arbitrating such cases, most of which originated in the USA (920 cases). The U.S. was followed by:

All up, parties from 112 countries were involved in case filings over the course of last year.

12% of cases last year related to new Generic Top Level Domains (ngTLD's); with .store, .site and .online registrations the most commonly disputed. Banking and finance, fashion, and internet and IT domain names accounted for nearly one-third of all cybersquatting disputes

Since WIPO began deciding on cases in 1999, it's dealt with more than 39,000 cases involving over 73,000 domain names.

76 Country Code Top-Level Domain (ccTLD) registries recognise WIPO’s dispute resolution service for dealing with cases under the UDRP, including Australia.

However, Australian businesses and trademark owners that believe they are victim of a .au cybersquatter should first consult the .au Dispute Resolution Policy (auDRP) before seeking the services of organisations such as WIPO to ensure they have a case. Arbitration can be costly - and there can be far cheaper ways to go about dealing with such incidents, and in some cases it can cost nothing. More information on cybersquatting and Australian domain names can be found here.

Thankfully instances of cybersquatting are comparatively rare among Australian domain names, mostly thanks to strict registration criteria - and registrars that actually enforce it.

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