Evolving Domain-Registration System Raises Cybersquatting Concerns

GENEVA, Switzerland - Largely due to the evolution of the domain name registration system, trademark owners worldwide have expressed elevated concerns about cybersquatting, the practice of registering, trafficking or using a domain to profit from a trademark owned by someone else. 

The World Intellectual Property Organization's Arbitration and Mediation Center reported that a record 2,156 cybersquatting complaints were filed in 2007. This represents an 18 percent increase over 2006 and a 48 percent increase over 2005 in the number of generic and country code Top Level Domains (gTLDs and ccTLDs).

"These increases confirm that cybersquatting remains a significant issue for rights holders," said Francis Gurry, deputy director general of the World Intellectual Property Organization, a specialized agency of the United Nations.

Gurry, who oversees the organization's dispute-resolution work,  said several developments in the domain name registration system are grounds for alarm for intellectual-property holders and Internet users in general. 

Among the concerns raised are worries about the introduction of a number of new generic Top Level Domains late this year.

"The potentially useful purposes of any new domains would be frustrated if these get filled predominantly with automated pay-per-click content," Gurry explained. "It comes down to a question of quantity versus quality. If the stated purpose of new gTLDs is to increase choice and competition in domain registration services, due consideration must be given to [the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers'] core [Uniform Dispute Resolution Policy] principles during the policy-development work and implementation plans. 

"This is not just an issue of protecting rights of trademark holders, but also an issue of the reliability of the addressing system of the Internet in matching interested parties with authentic subjects."