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The Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP) has been in place since prior to the turn of the Millennium (since 1999) to assist brand owners to address domain name cybersquatting and opportunism, and also to assist resolve genuine disputes in respect of competing claims for domain name registration.

The UDRP applies to many top level domains (TLDs), including the most commonly used, .com, .net and .org domains. It also applies to all of the hundreds of newly introduced new generic TLDs, which range from .aero to .christmas to .guitars to .menu to .pizza to .solar to .yoga and .zero. A close variation, the auDRP, applies to Australian .au domains.

The policy is efficient and relatively low cost. To obtain relief, a brand owner must establish all three of these elements:

  1. The domain name is identical or confusingly similar to a trade mark in which the brand owner has rights;
  2. The respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the domain name; and
  3. The domain name was registered and is being used in bad faith.

One dispute resolution provider (among others) is the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Centre. WIPO reports that there has been a “surge” in cybersquatting cases during the pandemic, and warns of an apparent increase in cyber-crime associated with this surge. For example. recent domain name cases have involved domain names including the words “covid” or “vaccine”, or relate to postponed events such as the Tokyo Olympics.

Despite the many new domains available for registration, it appears that the majority of cases are still within the well-known .com, .net and .org domains.

The statistics show that there have been 4,290 cases handled by the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Centre this year to date, an increase on both 2019 and 2018.

Takeaways

  • While it is impractical to defensively register every permutation in every domain space, registering the more obvious alternative domain names for your business may be the cheapest way to prevent this form of brandjacking and having them fall into the hands of a cybersquatter. Traffic can be redirected back to your central website.
  • Send a consistent message to consumers and stakeholders about which is your business’ official website, to reduce consumer and public confusion as to the true source
  • Continue to be vigilant around cybersquatters registering and using domain names that include your brand name (including obvious misspellings), and be prepared to act on them as soon as learning about their existence.

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