- by David Goldstein -
After two decades of arbitrating domain name disputes, the World Intellectual Property Organization’s (WIPO) Arbitration and Mediation Center has registered its 50,000th case after a sharp uptick in cybersquatting cases since the COVID-19 pandemic hit the world.
The means of hearing cybersquatting disputes, the Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP), was created in 1999 by WIPO, and is used by brand owners around the world to combat abuse of their trademarks in domain names in an ever-growing number of top-level domains. As of 20 November 2020, WIPO had administered 50,000 UDRP-based proceedings covering almost 91,000 domain names and involving parties from over 180 countries.
In these cases, if after review by qualified external panellists the domain name is determined to have been registered and to be used in bad faith – the practice of cybersquatting – it is transferred to the trademark-holding complainant party.
“The UDRP is an essential tool to help protect Internet users around the world against online deception and fraud,” said WIPO Director General Daren Tang. “The 50,000th case just received by WIPO shows that the UDRP system remains as relevant to global consumer protection as it was when WIPO proposed it over 20 years ago.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has seen an uptick in cybersquatting cases filed with WIPO’s Arbitration and Mediation Center, adding to the record WIPO filing seen this year. From January through October 2020, the WIPO Center handled 3,405 cases, or an 11% increase over the same period during 2019.
The COVID-19 pandemic has also led to the WIPO Center having five of its six busiest months in 2020 since the adoption of the UDRP in 1999 while more than 100 domain name disputes have been filed with the Center containing “corona”- or “covid”-related terms since the pandemic according to GigaLaw.
Over the past 20 years the vast majority of domain names involved in UDRP procedures involve trademark holders and brands seeking to recover domain names impersonating their trademarks and brands used in fraud and phishing or for websites selling counterfeit goods.
The top sectors from where complainants come from are banking and finance, biotechnology and pharmaceuticals, internet and IT, fashion, heavy industry and machinery, retail and entertainment. These typically account for around two-thirds of all cases heard by the Center.