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UDRP filings hit new record

Kevin Murphy, March 31, 2011, Domain Policy

The World Intellectual Property Organization handled more cybersquatting cases in 2010 than in any other year to date, according to just-released statistics.

WIPO said today it received 2,696 UDRP complaints last year, up 28% over 2009’s 2,107 cases.

But the number of domains covered by these cases actually slipped a little, from 4,688 to 4,370, according to WIPO.

Since the policy was created in 1999, WIPO says it has decided over 20,000 UDRP complaints, covering over 35,000 domain names in 65 TLDs.

It may sound like a lot, but it’s actually a vanishingly small percentage of the 205.3 million domain names that are registered across all TLDs today.

Facebook files 21 domain name complaints

Kevin Murphy, March 23, 2011, Domain Policy

Facebook has filed a UDRP complaint covering 21 domain names that include its trademark.

All seem to belong to the same domainer: Mike Mann. His company, Domain Asset Holdings, which has over 162,000 domains to its name, is listed in the Whois for each.

It’s the largest single UDRP filing by Facebook to date, and only its second to include brand+keyword domains.

The contested domains include: aboutfacebook.com, facebookbabes.com, facebookcheats.com, facebookclub.com, facebookdevelopment.com, killfacebook.com and many more.

All 21 covered by the UDRP are currently available for sale at Mann’s DomainMarket.com, with list prices between $350 and $8,000 and above.

A quick search on that site for other well-known social media brands returned dozens of results.

Mann is known as co-founder of BuyDomains, and more recently as one of the former owners of sex.com, which sold for $13 million last year.

Xvid founder tries to seize $55k sale Xvid.com

Kevin Murphy, February 25, 2011, Domain Policy

The founder of Xvid.org, a popular if legally dubious video codec, is trying to get his hands on the domain name Xvid.com.

Michael Militzer, who launched the Xvid project in 2001, has filed a UDRP complaint with the World Intellectual Property Organization.

Xvid.com was registered in 2000, and spent much of the last decade as a placeholder site, but changed hands early last year. It’s now developed, with links to video software.

In a thread on DigitalPoint, it is claimed that the current registrant paid $55,000 for the domain. It may prove to have been a poor investment.

There’s plenty of UDRP precedent suggesting that buying a domain name corresponding to a trademark can be considered bad faith, even when the original registration preceded the trademark filing.

Millitzer obtained his US trademark on the word “Xvid” in 2008. Historical Whois records show the domain has only been registered to its current owner since 2010.

There’s an irony here: Xvid has been accused in the past of infringing intellectual property rights in the form of MPEG’s patents.

Rumor sites fair game under UDRP

Kevin Murphy, February 14, 2011, Domain Policy

Could Apple shut down MacRumors.com using the Uniform Dispute Resolution Policy?

That seems like a fair interpretation of a recent WIPO decision over the domain name LegoRumors.com, which was handed over to Lego Juris, maker of the popular toys.

LegoRumors.com leads to blog-style news site, not many months old, that reports on Lego products.

The site is a bit of a mess – poorly written, spammy, and ad-heavy. You’d have to be nuts to think it was an official Lego site.

It does appear to contain original content, and does not look to me like the kind of clear-cut cybersquatting that the UDRP was intended to address.

Lego succeeded in seizing the domain, regardless. The WIPO panelist (in a decision that could also have used a run through a spell-checker) found:

The disputed domain name consists of two different words, one consisting of the Complainants registered trademark and other of a generic term “rumors”. The Panel considers that the addition of the generic denomination, especially when added to a famous trademark is not sufficient to avoid confusion.

Pay attention, “rumors” sites.

The panelist also found that the domain name was registered in bad faith, on the basis that the registrant clearly was aware of Lego’s trademark (because he’s writing about Lego) and because the site contained sponsored links to potential competitors.

Apply this logic to MacRumors.com, which knowingly uses an Apple trademark in its domain name, writes about Apple products, and currently shows ads for BlackBerry and Adobe products that compete with Apple.

I’m not suggesting for a second that MacRumors is in any danger of losing its domain, but if the UDRP was implemented equitably, this case could be seen as scary precedent.

UDRP reform effort begins

Kevin Murphy, February 5, 2011, Domain Policy

ICANN has kicked off a review of its Uniform Dispute Resolution Policy, the occasionally controversial process used to adjudicate cybersquatting complaints.

The GNSO Council on Thursday voted to ask ICANN staff for a so-called “Issues Report” on UDRP, indicating that reform of the process is likely.

This is the relevant portion of the resolution, passed unanimously:

RESOLVED #2, the GNSO Council requests an Issues Report on the current state of the UDRP. This effort should consider:

* How the UDRP has addressed the problem of cybersquatting to date, and any insufficiencies/inequalities associated with the process.

* Whether the definition of cybersquatting inherent within the existing UDRP language needs to be reviewed or updated. The Issue Report should include suggestions for how a possible PDP on this issue might be managed.

Issues Reports commissioned by the Council are expected within 15 days, and 15 days after that the Council is expected to vote on whether to kick off a Policy Development Process.

A PDP could lead to changes to the UDRP that would be binding on all ICANN-accredited registrars and their customers.

While the UDRP has proven very effective at dealing with clear-cut cases of cybersquatting over the last 12 years, critics claim that it is often interpreted too broadly in favor of trademark interests.

If you read this blog regularly, you’ll know I frequently report on unfathomable UDRP decisions, but these are generally the exception rather than the rule.

Unrelated to UDRP, the GNSO Council has also voted against asking ICANN for an Issues Report on registry/registrar best practices for mitigating domain abuse.

Business interests wanted registrars to take more measures (voluntarily) to curb activities such as phishing, but registrars think this kind of rule-making is beyond the scope of the GNSO.

After a lot of heated debate and arcane procedural wrangling, the Council decided instead to ask for a “discussion paper”, a term that has no meaning under ICANN’s rules, meaning a PDP is less likely.