As I predicted more than three months ago, 2016 turned out to be a record year for domain name disputes, including under the Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP). That's according to statistics from the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), the only UDRP service provider that publishes real-time data on domain name disputes. WIPO's statistics show 3,022 cases in 2016 -- an increase of almost 10 percent from 2015. The previous most-active year for domain name disputes was 2012, and the number of cases has been on the rise ever since.
In addition to a rise in the number of cases filed at WIPO, the total number of domain names in dispute (since a single case can relate to more than one domain name) also rose, and significantly. WIPO's caseload in 2016 included 5,368 domain names -- a spike of 23 percent since the previous year.
The increase is likely attributable to a number of factors, including the economy, new cybersquatting tactics, the growing prevalence of the Internet and, most especially, the ongoing launch of more than 1,000 new generic top-level domain names (gTLDs). For example, although .com remains -- by far -- the most-often disputed top-level domain, the following new gTLDs were represented in a notable number of disputes at WIPO in 2016: .cloud, .club, .date, .lol, .online, .shop, .site, .space, .store, .top, .vip, .website and .xyz.
Importantly, the total number of domain name disputes is much greater than represented by these WIPO statistics, for a number of reasons:
- In addition to WIPO, four other entities are accredited as UDRP service providers, including the Forum (formerly the National Arbitration Forum), which also receives a significant number of filings. The other UDRP provides are the Czech Arbitration Court, the Asian Domain Name Dispute Resolution Centre and the Arab Center for Domain Name Dispute Resolution.
- Some new gTLD disputes are resolved via the new Uniform Rapid Suspension System (URS) rather than the UDRP. (WIPO does not provide URS services.)
- Many country-code top level domain names (ccTLDs) are not subject to the UDRP, including such popular ccTLDs as .uk and .in, which are administered by other dispute service providers.
- Some domain name disputes are decided in court systems all around the world -- rather than through administrative proceedings such as the UDRP, the URS and ccTLD policies.
So, while it may be impossible to count the total number of domain name disputes worldwide, the WIPO statistics are probably the best gauge of trends. And the trend is clear: Domain name disputes are on the rise.