A United Nations agency that protects intellectual property handled nearly 20 per cent more cybersquatting disputes -- the abusive registration of trademarks as Internet domain names -- in 2005 than the previous year, as celebrities, corporate moguls and others turned to its services in ever-greater numbers.
The Geneva-based World Intellectual Property Organization
(WIPO) said that 1,456 cybersquatting cases were filed with its Arbitration and Mediation Center in 2005, the highest number of cases since 2001. Claimants found the agency delivered a faster and less expensive route than traditional litigation to safeguard their trademark rights against cybersquatting.
The Arbitration Center has handled more than 8,350 disputes enveloping 127 countries and 16,000 domain names since the Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy came into effect in December 1999.
The policy is a streamlined way to resolve disputes involving the use of Internet domain names and its users frequently include entertainment figures, pharmaceutical companies, technology firms and small- to mid-size businesses.
Last year, its users included fashion moguls like Ralph Lauren and Calvin Klein, the sports-related Lance Armstrong Foundation and entertainment figures such as newscaster Larry King and actor Morgan Freeman.
"The fact that WIPO's caseload in 2005 was the highest in four years and that many of these cases concern recently registered domain names, underlines the need for continued vigilance by intellectual property owners," said WIPO Deputy Director General Francis Gurry.
He noted that while most UDRP disputes are concentrated in the '.com' domain, strict preventive mechanisms must also be created to protect against abusive registration in the new generic top-level domains (gTLDs). Last year, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) approved the creation of new gTLDs such as ".travel."
"If domain names are randomly attributed in new domains, intellectual property owners will be forced to compete with cybersquatters for their own trademarks -- unless additional prevent safeguards are introduced," said Mr. Gurry.
The Arbitration Center was created in 1994 to offer dispute resolution procedures for all types of intellectual property disputes, including patents, trademarks and copyright licensing.