Storm brewing over new domain names

The World Intellectual Property Organisation is preparing itself for a possible flood of complaints over the new .biz and .info domain names

The World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) is gearing up to cope with a possible flood of disputes resulting from disgruntled individuals failing to register their trademark as a new generic top level domain name (gTLD).

The "sunrise" period for the application of .info and .biz domain names will end next month, and WIPO is sceptical about the success rate of disputes resolved in this interim period. Its Arbitration and Mediation Centre is preparing itself for an increase in the number of cybersquatting cases that may result from the initial allocation procure of these new gTLDs.

"I'm not sure how effective the sunrise period will be," said Frances Gurry, assistant director general of WIPO. "The new gTLDs add a greater differentiation in the domain name space, so one view would be that there is more possibility of accommodating several claims to the same sort of name... but some of the new gTLDs are very generic, being little different from .com -- so we are not yet sure of the effect that this will have [on cybersquatting]."

The application process for the new .biz domain name in particular has recently been branded an "illegal lottery", because companies pay money to registrars only for the chance to register a .biz address, not for the actual address itself. The registrar -- in this case WIPO -- selects a winner at random, but applicants receive no refund on fees paid whether the application is successful or not.

The .info gTLD is scheduled to go live on 19 September, and its sunset period will run from 28 August to 31 December. The .biz domain name is scheduled for a slightly later launch of 1 October, but its interim period for trademark owners to request .biz gTLDs will be slightly different. "Under the Startup Trademark Resolution Policy, a trademark owner will be notified if anyone registers the same .biz domain name that they have already made a claim for, enabling there to be dialogue between the two parties as well as providing an opportunity to transfer the claim," said Gurry.

WIPO is confident that its panel of 200 dispute resolution experts will be enough to deal with the extra number of cybersquatting cases expected to result from the new gTLDs. "We are gearing up, but it's a question of experience," added Gurry.

The WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Centre has received 2,821 cases since the dispute resolution procedure went into effect in December 1999. Of the gTLD cases filed, decisions have been reached in 1,993 cases, with 80 percent of the decisions ordering a transfer of the domain name to the complainant. Only 14 cases resulted in the termination of a domain name.

On Tuesday, the Centre received its 1,000th gTLD case filed in 2001.

See the Internet News Section for full coverage.

Have your say instantly, and see what others have said. Click on the TalkBack button and go to the Telecoms forum.

Let the editors know what you think in the Mailroom. And read other letters.