WIPO Misleads Again On 2012 Cybersquatting Statistics

Trademark holders filed a record 2,884 cybersquatting cases covering 5,084 domain names with the WIPO Center in 2012 under procedures based on the Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP). This represents an increase of 4.5 percent over the record established in 2011, the organisation announced.

But domain name registrations grew by 12 percent in the year according to Verisign’s latest Domain Name Industry Brief. So while WIPO does not handle dispute resolution for all top level domains, it would be reasonably safe to say disputes over domain names are growing at a slower rate than actual registrations are increasing.

It is not to say that cybersquatting is not a serious issue for trademark holders. It obviously is. But WIPO constantly over exaggerates how big a deal the growth in disputes actually is. Plus WIPO added two more, albeit minor, ccTLDs in 2012, namely .TZ (Tanzania) and .PW (Palau).

Since the UDRP’s launch in December 1999, WIPO has received over 25,500 UDRP based cases, covering some 47,000 domain names across the TLDs they handle dispute resolution for.

In 2012 there were complainants and respondents from 120 countries, ten countries more than the 2011 WIPO caseload. The 2012 caseload was decided by 341 WIPO panellists from 48 countries, with 13 different languages of proceedings, namely (in order of frequency) English, Spanish, Chinese, French, Dutch, German, Portuguese, Turkish, Korean, Romanian, Italian, Russian, and Czech.

Among WIPO cases in 2012, ccTLDs accounted for almost 12 percent of filings, with 67 national domain registries now connected to WIPO domain name dispute resolution services.

The top three areas of complainant activity in 2012 were retail, fashion and banking and finance. The caseload featured many well-known names from business as well as public interest sectors. Of the gTLD cases filed with WIPO in 2012, three quarters (74.8%) concerned .com registrations. The increased filings related to fashion and luxury brands reflect in part a growth in the number of cases filed by brand owners alleging counterfeiting via the web pages offered under the disputed domain name.

Parties settled around one out of five WIPO cases before reaching panel decision. Applying UDRP jurisprudence, WIPO panels in 2012 found evidence of cybersquatting in 91 percent of all decided cases.

“This is a significant number and, as far as [Doug Iseneberg knows], this is the first time that data about settlements has been released by any UDRP service provider,” he wrote on his Isenberg on Domains blog. “It’s an especially important data point at WIPO, which routinely offers partial refunds to complainants in UDRP proceedings terminated by the parties prior to the appointment of a panel.”

On applying UDRP jurisprudence, Isenberg writes “this is also an enlightening number, as it seems to indicate that more disputes are ending in favour of trademark owners, which historically have obtained transfers in just over 85 percent of all domain name disputes at WIPO.”