Cybersquatting on the Rise, Says WIPO - Will it Keep Working?
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“The fact that WIPO’s caseload in 2005 was the highest in four years and that many of these cases concern recently registered domain names, underlines the need for continued vigilance by intellectual property owners,” Gurry emphasized. The bad news is, given the factors cited in the earlier sections of this article, the situation is only going to get worse before it gets better. And if you need another factor to figure in the equation, there’s the International Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN).
In all honesty, ICANN is just doing its job. But it assisted in breaking up the monopoly on domain name registration; this led to lots of registrars offering lower prices for domain name registration. This indirectly facilitated cybersquatting. Now, the organization has approved the creation of new gTLDs such as “.travel” and “.jobs,” and additional domains will be introduced this year. Once again, this can lead indirectly to an increase in cybersquatting.
Gurry sees this as a real problem that needs to be addressed. “It is important to protect the integrity of market identity…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 are introduced.”
Interestingly, some observers seem to think that there are too many controls in place already. It seems obvious from the percentage of cases that are resolved in favor of complainants that the system favors trademark holders. Not everyone thinks this is a good idea. Parody, satire, and criticism are recognized forms of speech, and there is a long history of defense of free speech in the United States (which is not the world, but is still the biggest Internet market). Even so, holders of domains registered in the form “ThisCompanySucks.com” have lost cases to the companies in question, which may have been trying to silence legitimate criticism.
So far, the system has worked. Will the Internet become so large that WIPO’s Arbitration Center bows under the caseload? Or worse, will disagreement as to what intellectual property deserves protection (or even what constitutes intellectual property) cause regional rifts? Let’s hope that the system can continue to evolve as needed.
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