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WIPO: Cybersquatting Cases Up in 2011

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Cybersquatting against trademark domains continues to rise according to new figures released by United Nations agency WIPO, the Arbitration and Mediation Center for disputes over domain name holding and intellectual property. Cases increased by 2.5 percent in 2011 compared to the previous year.

Once again 2011 proved to be a record year for disputes over domain names with trademark holders filing an all-time-high number of complaints against cybersquatters. The WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center announced on Tuesday that in 2011, 2,764 cases covering 4,781 domain names were filed, an increase of 2.5 percent and 9.4 percent over the previous highest levels in 2010 and 2009, respectively. WIPO hearings take place according to procedures set out in the Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP), an accepted international standard for resolving domain name disagreements outside the courts.

Complainants in the United States filed the most cases in 2011 (929) more than three times the number brought by the next in line, France with 300 cases, while the UK filed the third highest number (244).

The highest number of cases came from the retail sector, 17.03 percent of all cases, followed by Internet (8.39 percent) and Biotechnology and Pharmaceuticals (8.03 percent)

A sample of WIPO Domain Name Cases includes many well-known household names across a wide range of sectors. Perhaps not surprisingly the likes of Apple, Facebook and Google feature along with fashion brands Adidas, Calvin Klein and L'Oreal and entertainment industry giants iTunes and Virgin Entertainment. The range and breadth of targeted companies indicates that almost any trademarked company is seen as a potential target for cybersquatters wanting to capitalize on the large amounts of traffic that these websites generate.

Disputes over Intellectual Property, (patents, copyright, trademarks, designs, etc.) are brought by large companies, small- and medium-sized enterprises, research organizations and universities according to WIPO in its capacity as arbitrator and mediator in this area. To December 2011, it had resolved 270 cases on a wide range of issues such as patent infringement, patent licenses, information technology transactions (including telecommunications), distribution agreements for pharmaceutical and consumer products, copyright issues, research and development agreements, trademark co-existence agreements, art marketing, artistic production, and media-related agreements, joint venture agreements, and cases arising out of agreements in settlement of prior multi-jurisdictional intellectual property litigation.

The planned expansion of new generic Top Level Domains (gTLDs) by ICANN this year is expected to produce even more disputes than previously. In anticipation WIPO recently introduced further resources to aid trademarks prevent abuses against their domains with a list of legal rights objections for new gTLDs.

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