June 3, 2020
The COVID-19 pandemic appears to have fueled an increase in cybercrime. This is also true for cybersquatting cases filed with WIPO’s Arbitration and Mediation Center, which has clocked a steady increase as compared with the same period last year.
As much of the world has been working from home, businesses and consumers are relying heavily on the Internet and related IT resources – whether to engage in their “day jobs”, to shop online, or to inform themselves on staying safe in the current pandemic.
Many domain name registration authorities have even reported an increase in the number of domain names registered. These may be used for news/information sites, or even to provide new business offerings, but much like social media platforms, are also being used to spread misinformation and to engage in illegal and fraudulent activities.
Since 1999, brand owners have used the WIPO-developed UDRP (Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy) to address so-called cybersquatting, i.e., the bad-faith registration and use of a domain name targeting a trademark. Among other important design elements, the UDRP operates globally, and online, which means that cases are far more efficient and less expensive than court litigation around the world.
As a time-tested tool for reclaiming infringing domain names from bad actors, the UDRP has served trademark owners in nearly 48,000 WIPO cases already. Increasingly, in addition to cases in generic Top-Level Domains (gTLDs) like .COM, this includes cases under national domains, so-called ccTLDs (country code Top-Level Domains), such as .CN and .中国 for China, .EU for the European Union, or .UA for Ukraine.
As part of its overall response to the COVID-19 crisis, WIPO has continued to provide its full domain name dispute resolution services. Indeed, in the face of increased abuse towards brand owners and consumers, significant numbers of cases are being filed with WIPO, notably in the biotech/pharma, Internet/IT, banking/finance, and events-related categories.
Such filing now also includes disputes concerning COVID-19 related domain names, such as the following representative sample:
A range of real-time statistics for WIPO cases can be found at: https://www.wipo.int/amc/en/domains/statistics.