The year 2017 turned out to be a record-setting year for domain name disputes, in two ways: The number of complaints filed as well as the total number of domain names in those complaints.
- The number of cases at the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) crept up to 3,073 from 3,036 in 2016 (the previous record), a modest gain of just over 1 percent.
- Those cases included 6,370 domain names, up from 5,354 in 2016 (also a record-setting year), a spike of nearly 19 percent.
The 19 percent increase in the total number of disputed domain names is perhaps the most striking trend and is attributable to a number of large cases that included multiple domain names. As a result, the average number of domain names per case rose to 2.07 in 2017 from 1.76 in 2016. (See "Benefits and Challenges of Multiple Domain Names in a Single UDRP Complaint.")
As always when I write about domain name dispute statistics, these numbers represent filings at WIPO, the only one of the five ICANN-accredited service providers under the Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP) that publishes real-time and detailed data. Therefore, the total number of UDRP filings and disputed domain names in 2017 was actually much higher (the Forum typically handles nearly as many cases as WIPO) -- but, because WIPO is the largest UDRP provider, its statistics are indicative of trends in domain name disputes.
The record-setting year makes clear that domain name disputes are not going away and that the 18-year-old UDRP remains an important tool for trademark owners to fight cybersquatters. (See "How to Resolve a Domain Name Dispute.")
The filings also show that cybersquatting is still a lucrative activity but also that the UDRP is a popular way to combat it.
As a result, comments from WIPO Director General Francis Gurry made in 2017, when reflecting on the previous record-setting year for domain name disputes in 2016, remains true today: "The continuing growth in cybersquatting cases worldwide shows the need for continued vigilance by trademark owners and consumers alike. This is even more important as a considerable number of these disputes involve incidents of online counterfeiting."
While .com remains the most frequently disputed top-level domain (TLD) (followed by .net and .org), the new gTLDs are also partly responsible for an increase in UDRP complaints, with four new gTLDs among the top 10 appearing in disputes in 2017: .store, .site, .online, and .xyz. (See ".site Domain Names Eclipse .xyz in Dispute Proceedings.")
An increase in phishing-related scams (where cybersquatters use domain names to impersonate others as part of an attempt to extract information from unsuspecting victims) also probably contributed to the larger number of domain name disputes. (See "Fighting Phishing with Domain Name Disputes.")