Cybersquatting cases hit record level, with Philip Morris revealed as most active UDRP filer 16 Mar 17
Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP) case filings at WIPO have busted through the 3,000 barrier for the first time, with Philip Morris, AB Electrolux, Hugo Boss, Lego and Michelin revealed as the top complainants.
Earlier this week we reported on new research which indicated that new gTLDs are among the most widely used top-level domains in email spamming activities. The latest UDRP data from WIPO has now revealed that cybersquatting disputes relating to new gTLDs also increased in 2016, accounting for 16% of the organisation’s annual caseload (covering a total of 5,374 domain names). Overall – across legacy and new gTLDS – the 3,036 cases handled by WIPO last year represent a new high.
While ‘.com’ remains the ‘go to’ TLD for cybersquatters – accounting for two-thirds of all cases - the top 10 TLDs in terms of case numbers were evenly split between legacy and new gTLDS:
1. ‘.com’: 3,135 cases (66.89% of all disputed domains)
2. ‘.xyz’: 321 (6.85%)
3. ‘.net’: 272 (5.80%)
4. ‘.top’: 153 (3.26%)
5. ‘.org’: 129 (2.75%)
6. ‘.info’: 83 (1.77%)
7. ‘.club’: 55 (1.17%)
8. ‘.online’: 46 (0.98%)
9. ‘.biz’: 29 (0.62%)
10. ‘.VIP’: 27 (0.58%)
Of course, as more new gTLDS become active, the fact that more disputes in these extensions is on the rise should come as little surprise. The new gTLDs that appear in the top 10 are also unsurprising – each feature on the top 10 list of new gTLDS in terms of overall registrations, so are amongst the most popular extensions generally. As was noted in our coverage of the spamming report, the popularity of ‘.xyz’ grew steadily throughout the year and this – combined with low prices – was identified as a factor in its popularity amongst spammers. The same argument could be extended to cybersquatters.
While the headline finding is a record high number of cases, interestingly the number of domain names cited in these filings – while up on 2015 – was smaller than both 2013 and 2014:
2013: 2,585 cases; 6,191domain names
2014 2,634 cases; 5,603 domain names
2015 2,754 cases; 4,364 domain names
2016 3,036 cases; 5,374 domain names
Of course, this will be of little solace to brand owners. The number of domains cited in 2016 filings was still up 23% on the previous year and – compared to 2013 and 2014 – it means complainants are getting less bang for their buck. In 2013 the average number of domains targeted in each UDRP filing was 2.39. In 2016 it was 1.77.
As to the company’s filing UDRP complaints, Philip Morris was the clear leader, with 67 cases. Even if all of these were complaints focused on 1-5 domains and drawing on a single panellist, the company would have paid in excess of $100,000 in WIPO fees alone. The real figure is likely higher. The top 10 filing parties were:
1 Philip Morris (67)
2 AB Electrolux (51)
3 Hugo Boss (42)
4 Lego (42)
5 Michelin (42)
6 Intesa Sanpaolo (35)
7 Sanofi (29)
8 Virgin Enterprises (28)
9 Volkswagen (24)
10 Statoil (23)
Turning to the wider universe of complainants, the top originating sector was banking and finance (12% of all cases), followed by fashion (9%), heavy industry and machinery (9%), internet and IT (8%), biotechnology and pharmaceuticals (7%) and retail (7%).
As we have noted previously, these figures paint just one part of the picture with respect to online infringement. These statistics relate only to cases filed at WIPO, which is one of a number of UDRP providers (albeit the major one), and highlight filings rather than successful actions. Another dataset that needs to be considered when assessing overall domain name infringement figures would come from the Uniform Rapid Suspension System.
However, at a time when the ICANN community is engaged in rights protection mechanism reviews and INTA is working on its Impact Study on Costs of New gTLDs, the data serves as a timely reminder of the dollar cost of domain name infringement.
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