WIPO: Cybersquatting hits record, agency fears worse to come

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The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) said Monday it received a record 2,329 domain name dispute complaints last year, up eight percent over 2007.

WIPO said in a news release that the prevalence of cybersquatting – in which opportunists register a domain to take advantage of a legitimate brand – will worsen as the Internet Corp. for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) is set later this year to introduce hundreds of new generic top-level domains (gTLDs).

ICANN currently manages 21 gTLDs, including .com, .edu, .gov, .int, .mil, .net, and .org, but is opening the system up to anyone.

"The creation of unknowable and potentially vast numbers of new gTLDs raises significant issues for rights holders as well as internet users generally," Francis Gurry, WIPO director general, said. "The sale and broad expansion of new top-level domains in the open market, if not properly managed, will provide abundant opportunities for cybersquatters to seize old ground in new domains."

He said WIPO has recommended that any new gTLDs be heavily controlled, and to that point, WIPO is collaborating with ICANN to create procedures and standards for the new domain name extensions.

Brad White, a spokesman for ICANN, told SCMagazineUS.com on Monday that the organization passed a resolution last week at its annual international public meeting in Mexico City, calling for the formation of a body to offer recommendations on trademark protection in the context of expanded gTLDs.

"That's one of the things on ICANN's radar – the protection of these intellectual property rights," White said.

MarkMonitor, which provides solutions to prevent brand abuse, said in a recent study that cybersquatting among the 30 most popular brands rose 18 percent between 2007 and 2008.

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