Intellectual Property | Domain Name Disputes On The Rise

According to recent data, the number of disputes over the ownership of website addresses has increased by 6 per cent in the past year to July compared with the same period the year before.

Disputes adjudicated by the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) had reached 2,944 this July from 2,775 in 2011, the highest figure since 2007. And the main cause for the rise is said to be Chinese ‘cyber squatters’, who register the names of web domains linked to famous brands so they can either sell counterfeit goods or demand money from the brand owner before they relinquish ownership.

Complaints about Chinese cyber squatters have more than doubled in the past three years ad now account for 12 per cent of the total number of complaints made, although the US still has the highest number of alleged infringers complained about.

Big brands, especially luxury goods companies, remain the main target, including fashion retailer Gucci which had contested more than 100 domains during 2012 spread across six legal cases. Other famous brands that have taken up cases in the past year include Swarovski, Armani Burberry, Cartier and Dior.

Experts, suggest the number of disputes could rise even further with the introduction next year of a completely new set of domains. Google has already applied for more than a hundred domain extensions, including
Youtube.

It is difficult to track down illegitimate proprietors of domain names, leaving high costs for businesses that attempt to track down offenders in order to sue them.

Some civil rights organisations argue that this is an invasion of privacy, however, the requirement to register contact details of certain domain names will protect the legitimate owners of trademarks and prevent future cyber squatting. The regulation of domain names may also protect consumers from fraud as well as supporting the interests of intellectual property owners.

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Mackrell Turner Garrett Solicitors in London