WIPO Domain Disputes Grow, But Disputes Proportionally Decline

In 2011, there was a record 2764 cybersquatting cases covering 4,781 domain names filed by trademark holders with the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center (WIPO Center) under procedures based on the Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP). This is an increase of 2.5 per cent and 9.4 per cent over the previous highest levels in 2010 and 2009, respectively.

But disputes rose only 2.5 per cent year-on-year from 2010 to 2011 while total domain name registrations around the world grew by more than 18.0 million, or 8.9 per cent, from the third quarter of 2010 to the third quarter of 2011, according to Verisign’s latest Domain Name Industry Brief.

And in the previous full year, 2009, the total number of domain name registrations rose by 12.1 million, or 6.3 per cent, which would mean as a proportion disputes rose.

Without sitting down and doing the maths, it would be reasonable to assume that on a per domain basis, the number of disputes has declined over the past two years.

Further, the WIPO Center has added a number of TLDs for which they provide dispute resolution services has increased, while they do not make clear this will lead to at least part of the increase in disputes lodged with them.

The WIPO Center has been consistently against ICANN introducing new generic TLDs and is using this as further evidence for their opposition, and to campaign against their introduction.

“These UDRP filing trends illustrate that even in today’s Domain Name System, brand owners already have to make difficult choices for their stretched online enforcement resources. With the domain name coordinating body, ICANN, allowing for a massive increase in the number of new domains, brand owners’ resources will likely be stretched further,” said WIPO Director General Francis Gurry.

The expanding international reach of the internet WIPO notes is reflected in the diversity of the domain name disputes filed with the WIPO Center in 2011. Cases filed with WIPO in 2011 included complainants and respondents from 110 countries. These cases were decided by 323 WIPO panelists from 49 countries in 13 different languages, namely (in order of frequency) English, Spanish, French, Dutch, German, Chinese, Turkish, Korean, Portuguese, Romanian, Japanese, Italian and Slovak.

Among WIPO cases, the percentage related to ccTLDs rose further to 16 per cent of all cases in 2011 from just one per cent in 2000, with 65 national domain registries now having designated WIPO to provide domain name dispute resolution services. As of August 2011, the WIPO Center administers cases relating to both .QA and قطر; Qatar now not only utilizes its existing .QA two-letter country code in Latin characters, but also the قطر. internationalized ccTLD in Arabic script. Since becoming a provider for the .BR space in 2010, the WIPO Center in 2011 administered its first cases in the Brazilian domain.

In 2011 the top five areas of WIPO complainant activity were retail, Internet and IT, biotechnology and pharmaceuticals, fashion, and banking and finance. WIPO’s 2011 caseload featured many well-known names from business and public interest sectors.

Of the gTLD cases filed with WIPO in 2011, most (77%) concerned registrations in the .com domain. Possibly foreshadowing what lies ahead with the advent of further domains, the WIPO Center in late 2011 received the first UDRP case concerning a domain name in the new .xxx domain. Applying UDRP jurisprudence, panels in 2011 found evidence of cybersquatting in 88 per cent of all cases.