2020, what a year (for domain disputes)

Written by Samuel O’Toole | February 22, 2021

Intellectual Property

2020 was a year that will never be forgotten: with Covid, the Australian bush fires, Donald Trump being impeached, the passing of Kobe Bryant and a number of other well-known figures, I don’t blame you if you would prefer not to discuss 2020. However, in one respect 2020 was the best year on record. That’s all thanks to the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) who received a staggering 4,204 Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP) complaints, which is a record-beating year and up 13.8% on last year, Giga Law reports.

In 2019, there were 3,216 UDRP complaints filed with WIPO, WIPO is one of six authorised administrators of the UDRP established by ICAN (last acronym I promise), and as with 2019, it was top of the list for 2020.

Giga Law reports that opportunities for cyber squatters included capitalising on the pandemic with a raft of domains that included “covid”, “coronavirus” or “vaccine”. Unfortunately, that tallies up with trade mark filers and so in some ways to be expected.

It was also reported that the use of proxy services (hiding behind a third party so users cannot determine the owner of a domain) and the GDPR helped to increase the number of UDRPs. This is as it is sometimes possible to group a UDRP to take action over a number of domains owned by the same entity, of course if you don’t know who owns them it’s not possible to group them together.

There are over 366.8 million domain names registered across the world. Whilst I am not a betting man, I am a lawyer specialising in intellectual property and my bet is that a lot of those have been registered in “bad faith”. Bad faith is a key concept of the UDRP and essentially I would again bet that a high majority of URDP complaints are won and lost on bad faith. Bad faith can include registering a domain to sell it to a third party, blocking the rights owner from registering it and causing confusion. The UDRP does set out a list of indicators of bad faith but a wealth of decisions, thanks to WIPO and the other service providers, have expanded its definition and application – fantastic news if you’re a rights holder but not so good if you’re a cyber-squatter.

Do you have a brand but not your ideal domain? Do you have a domain that’s not yours? Or, like me, do you like an acronym and want to talk IP, UDRP, WIPO or ICAN? Well, why not contact one of our expert lawyers for a free consultation to discuss all things domains.

Written by Sam O’Toole, Solicitor

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