Trevor Little

WIPO has published its 2015 Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP) statistics, evidencing a 4.6% increase in case filings compared to the previous year. The organisation attributes this rise to activity in new gTLDs, which is accurate but the figures only tell one part of the story.

WIPO’s latest figures reveal that trademark owners filed 2,754 UDRP cases, centred on 4,364 domain names, with the organisation in 2015. Actions filed in new gTLDs accounted for 10.5% of WIPO’s caseload, with ‘.xyz’ leading the field in terms of new gTLD domain name complaints (arguably not a surprise given that it is also the most popular new gTLD in terms of domain name registrations). The top ten TLDs ranked by the number of domain names targeted by UDRP filings were as follows:

TLD (legacy or new gTLD) Number of domain names Percentage
'.com' (legacy) 2,732 71.71%
'.net' (legacy) 262 6.88%
'.org' (legacy) 200 5.25%
'.info' (legacy) 81 2.13%
'.xyz' (new gTLD) 62 1.63%
'.biz' (legacy) 45 1.18%
'.club' (new gTLD) 24 0.63%
'.email' (new gTLD) 20 0.52%
'.website' (new gTLD) 15 0.39%
'.online' (new gTLD) 15 0.39%

The first IDN, .网址, came in at fifteenth place, with 12 domain names. The headline takeaway seems to be that complaints against new gTLD domain names are behind the 4.6% rise in overall UDRP filings. That would be correct but it doesn’t tell the whole story. While new gTLDS are undoubtedly contributing to the overall number of UDRP filings, the current level of complaints remains lower than a number of previous years. The 2,754 cases filed is up compared to 2014, but down compared to 2010, 2011 and 2012 (which, as we previously reported, was a record year for UDRP complaints). Additionally, the number of domain names cited in UDRP complaints last year is the smallest since 2008 (the peak coming in 2013). In short, new gTLDS have driven up this year’s statistics but overall UDRP case levels at WIPO are still short of the ‘pre-new gTLDs’ high experienced in 2012.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that cybersquatting levels have been down over the past couple of years, nor that these figures give a truly accurate picture of current cybersquatting levels. These statistics relate only to cases filed at WIPO, which is one of a number of UDRP providers (albeit the major one). Additionally, filings through the Uniform Rapid Suspension System need to be taken into account if seeking to calculate the true level of domain infringement. On top of that, as trademark owners consider budgets they may direct resource to defensive registrations and opt to file less actions against lower priority infringing sites, thus impacting the numbers. Put simply, these statistics tell just one part of the story.

However, the 2,754 cases still amounts to a significant amount of trademark spend, and as new gTLDS continue to gain ground (and with some of the ‘blockbusters’ yet to hit the market), we could soon see new TLDs drive UDRP complaints above their 2012 high. The trends within this week’s data are therefore worthy of study.

WIPO cases in 2015 involved parties from 113 countries, with the US (847 cases filed) taking top spot. As to where the respondents were located, the US similarly ranked first, with China coming in second. The top three sectors of complainant activity were fashion (10% of all cases), banking and finance (9%), and internet and IT (9%). The retail sector accounted for 8% of complaints and biotechnology and pharmaceuticals 7%.

Turning to the brands which were most active in combatting cybersquatting, Hugo Boss took the crown. The top ten were:

  1. Hugo Boss (62 cases)
  2. Philip Morris (60)
  3. AB Electrolux (48)
  4. F Hoffmann-La Roche (41)
  5. Volkswagen (37)
  6. LEGO (36)
  7. Michelin (23)
  8. Wikimedia Foundation (22)
  9. Accor (22)
  10. Intesa Sanpaolo (22)

In summary, while only telling one part of the story, the statistics are an important tool for those tasked with online brand protection, highlighting the sectors and TLDs most targeted by cybersquatters. With infringement likely to rise in the coming years, the challenge is deciding just how to effectively target available resource to combat it. 

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