Domain names and the UDRP complaint procedure 

By Marion Mercadier,
beau paysage verdoyant de Hairawn rose, République de Corée

Use of the Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP) is on the rise, with 2023 marking a record year for the UDRP complaint procedure. Marion Mercadier examines the data and explains what the dispute resolution policy is and when to use it. 

According to the domain name case statistics published by the World Intellectual Property Office (WIPO) Arbitration and Mediation Center, last year was a record year for the UDRP complaint procedure. It reported a record 6,192 UDRP complaints in 2023, with the banking, biotechnology and fashion sectors especially affected. 

What is the UDRP complaint procedure? 

Short for Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy, the UDRP is an administrative procedure that enables brand owners to resolve domain name disputes quickly and inexpensively. First established in 1999, the UDRP complaint procedure provides a vital tool for trademark owners to organise the cancellation or transfer of domain names that infringe their prior trademark(s). 

Who uses the UDRP complaint procedure? 

Novagraaf regularly files UDRP complaints to support our clients in the fight against online counterfeiting and cybersquatting. As use of the internet continues to evolve, we are seeing more and more such attacks, and in varied forms, such as the creation of: 

  • Fake websites that pretend to be official sites, but do not deliver the products ordered to buyers, 
  • Domain names used for identity theft or phishing by fraudsters to obtain personal information about their victims, 
  • Typo-squatting sites that reproduce the domain names of brand owners but with common typing errors to divert traffic from the desired domain name,  
  • Domain names using “homoglyphs”, where one or more characters of the targeted brand is replaced by almost identical characters in Cyrillic, Greek or another alphabet (for example, gucci/guccı.com – which uses a different letter for i), and even 
  • Websites offering fake competitions. 

What can we learn from the latest data about the UDRP complaint procedure? 

According to WIPO’s latest statistics, the 6,192 UDRP complaints administered in 2023 represent a more than 7% increase in such complaints in 2022 and bring the total of complaints processed to 67,625 cases. 

  • Success rates: In 2023, the trademark owners successfully obtained the transfer of fraudulent domain names in 82% of cases. Only 3% of complaints were rejected with 14% of cases resolved amicably. 
  • Brand owner locations: Most of the brand owners that used the UDRP complaint procedure in 2023 came from Europe and North America, followed by Asia and with very small percentages from Latin America, Africa and Oceania. The top three countries were the United States, France and the United Kingdom. 
  • Languages: Procedures were conducted in 17 languages, the 10 most common of which were English, Chinese, French, Spanish, Russian, Japanese, Turkish, German, Portuguese and Swedish. 
  • Sectors: While all industries were affected, the main sectors represented in the UDRP complaint procedure were banking and finance, biotechnology and pharmaceuticals, fashion and retail. 
  • Extensions: Unsurprisingly, the .com is at the top of the list of the extensions most targeted by cybersquatters, with 80% of cases. However, the extension for Anguilla (.ai) has also seen an increase in cases following the boom in artificial intelligence (AI).  

What was the largest UDRP complaint of the year? 

Anecdotally, the largest UDRP complaint of the year included 469 fraudulent domain names. This number was reduced to 430 domain names (after some expired during the procedure), with WIPO finally ordering the transfer of 428 domain names to the trademark holder (D2023-2969, 28 November 2023). 

Domain names can be grouped under the same complaint if they are under the same control and WIPO considers that it would be fair and equitable. In this case, the grouping of domain names within the same complaint allowed its registrant to avoid filing more than 400 complaints. 

COVID-19 and the increase in UDRP complaint cases 

Finally, the WIPO report notes an increase in UDRP cases of 68% since the COVID-19 pandemic. 

A first increase in cases of cybersquatting had already been recorded after COVID-19, with the number of domain names registered in connection with COVID-19 having increased considerably. As we explained at the time, many malicious parties sought to profiteer during this period by targeting consumers with scams and fraud. 

The 2023 figures from the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center reveal the progression of cybersquatting and confirm, once again, the importance of the UDRP complaint procedure as a very effective tool for trademark owners to defend their rights.  

Considering the first decisions rendered at the start of this year (most of which resulted in transfers), we can expect a significant number of UDRP complaints again in 2024. 

To find out more about the UDRP complaint procedure or for advice on enforcing your trademark rights online, speak to your Novagraaf attorney or contact us below.  

Marion Mercadier is a Trademark Attorney at Novagraaf in Paris.  


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