Cybersquatting, individuals purchasing Web domains and sitting on them until the right buyer comes along, has reached record levels, according to the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO).

It states that in 2010, trademark holders filed 2,696 cybersquatting cases against 4,370 Web domains. This marked a 28 percent increase from 2009, and 16 percent more than 2008. The WIPO Center allows users to dispute domain names.

In 1999, cybersquatting was described as a “substantial threat to a century of pre-Internet American business efforts,’ by Michigan Senator Spencer Abraham, during a hearing on cybersquatting by the Committee on the Judiciary United States Senate.

“The fraud is commonly called ‘cybersquatting,’ a practice whereby individuals, in bad faith, reserve Internet domain names or other identifiers of online locations that are similar to or identical to trademarked names,” Abraham said.

Cybersquatting is not a new concept, however, according to a report from John D. Mercer, “Cybersquatting: Blackmail on the Information Superhighway”.

“Cybersquatting is a phenomenon only as old as the World Wide Web itself. Cybersquatters have been characterized as “individuals [who] attempt to profit from the Internet by reserving and later reselling or licensing domain names back to the companies that spent millions of dollars developing the goodwill of the trademark,”states Mercer.

He sums up the most common form of cybersquatting as when someone registers a domain name using the name of an existing corporation, with the intention to sell the domain to the corporation.

A policy for disputing domains, the Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP), proposed by WIPO in 1999, has become the standard for resolving domain name disputes.

“Under the UDRP, a complainant must demonstrate that the disputed domain name is identical or confusingly similar to its trademark, that the respondent does not have a right or legitimate interest in the domain name and that the respondent registered and used the domain name in bad faith,” states WIPO.

The outcome is then decided by independent panelists from a WIPO Center list of specialists. During the debate, the domain name is frozen, and cases usually last under two months.

Photo credit: Squatters in Berlin, Kreuzberg in 1981. (Tom Ordelman)

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Joshua Philipp is the founder and editor of He's also an award-winning journalist at Epoch Times.

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