27 February 2017 at 10:04 BST

Domain name legal disputes hit record high

The number of legal disputes worldwide over domain names has reached a record high in the past year as companies fight off overseas cyber squatters.

Andrea De Martin

Analysis from EMW released today has revealed that the number of domain name dispute cases adjudicated by the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) hit 3,036 in 2016, up 10 per cent in the last year from 2,754 and up by two-thirds (66 per cent) in the past decade from 1,824. Additionally, the number of cases where a UK-based company brought a complaint against a cyber squatter rose 4 per cent to a four-year high in 2016, including cases involving Shell, Virgin, and Vodafone Group.

Set to rise

EMW has also suggested that with the growing number of new domains, the potential for disputes may increase. The London and Milton-Keynes firm highlighted that as companies expand into new overseas markets, disputes over domain names arise when their trademark is already being used by a competitor, or has been bought by a domain name ‘squatter’. For many popular brands, squatters may pre-emptively register a domain name incorporating the company’s brand in order to re-direct online traffic to their own site or in an attempt to get the company to purchase the domain name for an inflated sum. EMW has also noted that the ability to use new domains, such as '.club', '.vip' and '.wine', was a major driver of the increase in disputes. 

Successful challenges

Several companies have already had success in resolving domain name name disputes with alleged 'cyber squatters'. Calvin Klein, for example, challenged the use of ‘verycalvinklein.xyz’. Other example include supermarket chain Lidl, which challenged the use of lidl.irish, All Saints, which challenged the use of allsaints.vip, Swarovski, which challenged the use of swarov.ski, and Hugo Boss, which challenged the use of hugoboss-suits.org.


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