U.N. Reports Rise in Cybersquatting
By BRADLEY S. KLAPPER, Associated Press Writer
The U.N. copyright agency on Wednesday reported a 20 percent jump in
"cybersquatting" complaints last year, coming mainly from top tech
firms, trendy fashion brands, Hollywood stars and sports
The agency registered 1,456 complaints for cybersquatting -- or
abusive registration of trademarks as Internet domain names -- and the
practice appears to be on the rise, said Francis Gurry, deputy
director general of the World Intellectual Property Organization, or
WIPO handles arbitration for over half of the world's cybersquatting
disputes each year. Gurry said the rise highlighted the need for
"vigilance by intellectual property owners."
"It is important to protect the integrity of market identity," he
said. "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 safeguards
Most of last year's disputes have since been resolved, including cases
brought by celebrities such as Morgan Freeman, Damien Hirst, Frank
Gehry and Larry King, as well sports organizations including the Lance
Armstrong Foundation, Italian soccer club Juventus and the English
Web sites such as sony-ericsson.org and renaulttrucks.com, as well as
fashion brands Ralph Lauren, Hugo Boss, Armani and Calvin Klein, were
also targeted. Cybersquatters often demand great amounts of money for
the sale of Internet sites to people or firms with registered
trademarks, Gurry said.
"It's a commercial model based on the number of hits on a site," Gurry
Anyone can register a domain name on the Internet for a few dollars,
which has led to so-called "cybersquatters."
The U.N. arbitration system, which started in 1999, allows those who
think they have the right to a domain name to get it back without
having to fight a costly legal battle or pay large sums of money. It
costs about $1,500 to file a claim at WIPO. The arbitration system
cannot award financial penalties.
Previous celebrities to have won the Internet version of their names
back through U.N. arbitration, including Morgan Freeman, Julia
Roberts, Madonna, Nicole Kidman, Pamela Anderson, Pierce Brosnan and
In total, WIPO has received over 8,000 complaints, nearly half of
which were filed by people or companies based in the United
States. U.S. firms and individuals were also the targets of nearly
half of all complaints.
France, Britain and Germany were next in filing the most
cybersquatting complaints. But while the German and French were rarely
accused of bad faith, the number of Chinese firms or individuals to
come into the line of fire far outnumbered their compatriots filing
Gurry said linguistic reasons partly explain the imbalance, because
certain languages have much wider accessibility than others for
With about 60 million registered domain names worldwide and the number
still growing, he said cybersquatting would probably increase, but
hoped that new measures would help stem the tide.
Since 1999, WIPO has decided in favor of the complainant in 84 percent
of all cases.
Copyright 2006 The Associated Press.
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