The number of domain name complaints climbed by 4.5 percent in 2015, reaching the third-highest level since the launch of the Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP) in 1999. Although the total number of disputed domain names in those complaints actually dropped -- by more than 22 percent -- the decrease was largely due to one unusually large case in 2014 (a single eBay dispute with 1,152 domain names) that skewed the numbers. As a result, the average number of domain names per complaint decreased to 1.58 from 2.13.
These statistics are from the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), the largest of the four ICANN-accredited domain name dispute providers. (As I've noted before, the other providers -- the Forum, the Czech Arbitration Court and the Asian Domain Name Dispute Resolution Centre -- don't provide the same type or frequency of filing data.)
The increase in the number of complaints filed at WIPO is consistent with current trends, as both WIPO and the Forum reported a steady or slight increase in filings the previous year. The total number of domain name disputes at WIPO has been rising (though not consistently) since 2003.
Importantly, the WIPO statistics do not include filings under the Uniform Rapid Suspension System (URS), which applies to the new top-level domains. (That's because WIPO is not a URS service provider.) Perhaps some trademark owners selected the URS over the UDRP, a factor that actually may have kept the number of UDRP filings from increasing even more than 4.5 percent.
Here are a few other data points from domain name dispute filings at WIPO last year:
- The number of .com domain names dropped significantly, from 3,341 the previous year to 2,732. Still, .com remains by far the most popular TLD in a domain name dispute. (With 262 disputed domain names, .net placed a distant second.)
- At 62 disputed domain names, .xyz represented the new gTLD that appeared most often in a UDRP complaint. (The .xyz domain became popular because of an early free-registration program, and Google's new parent company, Alphabet, brought attention to it by registering abc.xyz.)
- Other popular new gTLDs that were subjected to UDRP complaints included .club (24 domain names), .email (20), .website (15), .online (15), .pub (13), .moscow (11) and .paris (10).
Although the limited popularity of most new gTLDs and their staggered launch dates probably means it's too early to know what impact they'll ultimately have on the dispute system, it's clear that domain name disputes overall are on the rise.
In any event, the increase in UDRP complaints indicates that trademark owners must remain vigilant about protecting themselves online, because cybersquatting remains a problem.