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Fashion, Luxury Head Cybersquatting Cases

The categories were up 4.5 percent on the previous year.

GENEVA — The fashion and luxury goods areas loomed large in the record 2,884 cybersquatting cases, up 4.5 percent on the previous year, filed in 2012 by trademark holders, Francis Gurry, director general of the World Intellectual Property Organization, said.

He said the areas where cybersquatting — the abusive registration of trademarks as domain names — “is most prevalent are retail, fashion and banking and finance.”

Gurry attributed the spike in cases filed with WIPO’s arbitration and mediation center “to the increased use of the Internet,” and e-commerce.

In 2012 the fashion area accounted for the second-largest number of dispute filings, with 13 percent of all cases (up from 7.7 percent and the fifth-largest number the year before ) and behind retail, with 18 percent, while the number of cases in the luxury area reached 2 percent of all cases, WIPO said.

The increased filings related to fashion and luxury brands, WIPO said, “reflect in part a growth in the number of cases filed by brand owners alleging counterfeiting via the Web pages offered under the disputed domain name.”

Fashion cases in 2012 included complaints filed by Aldo, Belstaff, Bikkembergs, Cerruti, Dr Martens, Eric Bompard, Karen Millen, Lacoste, Lush, Missoni, Monsoon, Paul Frank, Pepe Jeans, Peuterey and Vans.

Similarly, in the luxury areas, complaints included cases filed by Armani, Bottega Veneta, Burberry, Chanel, Christian Dior Couture, Davidoff, DKNY, Dolce & Gabbana, Etro, Fendi, Frey Wille, Goyard, Hermès, Hugo Boss, Jimmy Choo, Mark Orian, Moncler, Prada, Richemont, Rolex, Salvatore Ferragamo, Swarovski and Ermenegildo Zegna.

Asked about the big increase in fashion and luxury cases, Gurry told WWD, “Well, I think it shows that some people can still hijack goodwill, hijack reputation and still attract people to their Web site — which may have nothing to do with fashion or luxury goods — simply by abusing the name.”

He said some abusers “are trying to sell counterfeit products, so they’re counterfeiting the names as well — cybersquatting the names for that purpose.”

With regards to the damages inflicted by cybersquatting to trademark holders, Gurry said WIPO does not have a precise estimate but thinks it would be in the tens of billions of dollars.

Concerning the cases filed in 2012, about 613 were terminated, mostly because of party settlement (more than one in five cases), and in 2,246, arbitration panels ordered transfers of the disputed domain names to the complainant. Twenty-five are still pending, WIPO said.

The U.S. was the largest complainant last year, with 798 cases, and also the largest host country of respondent parties, with 784 cases, WIPO officials said.

In the same period, only nine complaints were filed by parties based in China, but the world’s most populous nation was the second-largest host of respondent parties, with 500, they said.