GENEVA — Fashion was among the top sectors in the record 3,036 cybersquatting cases filed in 2016 by trademark owners, a report by the World Intellectual Property Organization said.
The report shows that cybersquatting — the abusive registration of trademarks as domain names — was most prevalent in banking and finance, which accounted for 12 percent of all cases, followed in second place by the fashion area, with 9 percent of all cases.
“The continuing growth of cybersquatting cases worldwide shows the need for continued vigilance by trademark owners and consumers alike,” said Francis Gurry, WIPO director general.
“This is even more important as a considerable number of these disputes involve incidents of online counterfeiting. In such cases, WIPO assists in restoring the domain names to trademark owners, thereby curbing consumer deception,” he said.
Fashion cases in 2016 included cybersquatting complaints filed by Giorgio Armani, Pierre Balmain, Jimmy Choo, Calvin Klein, Hugo Boss, Salvatore Ferragamo, Gucci, Lacoste, L’Oréal, Valentino and Yves Saint Laurent.
In addition, complaints were also filed by Bottega Veneta, Diadora, Lardini, OshKosh, Isabel Marant, Moncler and Missoni, WIPO said.
Gurry said some trademark owners try to stop any infringement and emphasized some high-end fashion brands “do not want their reputations diminished on the Internet.”
WIPO officials said most cases are resolved in favor of trademark owners.
In 2016, about 200 fashion-related WIPO cases were filed over 350 disputed domain names and WIPO experts said, in 95 percent of the cases, the complainant prevailed.
Under the Uniform domain name dispute resolution policy a registration may be canceled, or transferred to the winning party, but there are no damages awarded.
Asked whether the problem was likely to get worse with the surge in on-line purchases by consumers, Gurry said, “This is a good indication, we see all attempts by people to divert traffic to their direction, and some of those attempts are legitimate and some of them are illegitimate.”
Gurry, an Australian lawyer, pointed out “the opportunity for cybersquatting is rich and that’s because of the growth in top-level generic domain names, and it’s because the procedure for registration is unregulated. You just register.”
But both of these things, he said, are considered by the authorities on the Internet to be good because they encourage a rapidly expanding use of the web. But he also critically noted: “The downside is that it does expose brand owners to the possibility of being cybersquatted very easily.”
In other intellectual property related business, the WIPO released new findings on international patent applications filed in 2016 and also data on international trademark filings for 2016, with China, the world’s second-biggest economy, posting major gains in both segments, and driving the growth.
In 2016, China’s recorded a 44.7 percent increase in international patent filings, which came in at 43,168, or 18.5 percent of total filings (and included 448 from China’s fifth-biggest applicant last year, Alibaba Group Holdings Ltd.) and ranked the country third behind Japan (45,239, or a 19.4 percent share) and the U.S., the world innovation leader, with 56,595 (a 24.3 percent share).
Overall, international patent filings last year, WIPO said, increased by 7.3 percent to 233,000 applications.
China posted an even bigger increase of 68.6 percent in international trademark applications, which totaled 3,200 and outpaced the overall 7.2 increase in total filings, which saw 52,550 applications. The U.S. remained the leader with 7,741 filings. The spike by China, experts said, is indicative of the country’s determined push to develop global brands.