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Registrars meet to discuss hijacking of domains

(IDG) -- Pushing for uniformity in the handling of Internet domain name disputes, the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) on Tuesday kicked off a conference in Geneva with representatives from 66 country domain registrars.

On the agenda are issues like abusive registration of domain names, dubbed cybersquatting, and other key policy issues related to intellectual property conflicts in country code top-level domains. These are the domains used for countries like".uk" for the U.K. and ".fr" for France. WIPO will also present its "Best Practices for Intellectual Property Dispute Prevention and Resolution."

Cybersquatting is getting more widespread with the large scale adoption of the Internet. Earlier this month a WIPO panel ruled on a dispute about the domain The American rock star claimed the right to the domain, which was registered by a fan. Springsteen lost the case when the panel ruled that the Canadian fan had a legitimate interest in using the address; he runs a fan Web site. INFOCENTER
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WIPO hopes that more individual registrars will conform to using its Uniform Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP). The UDRP is currently used to resolve intellectual property right conflicts involving .com, .net, and .org top-level domains, which are controlled by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). Additionally, 18 countries have committed to the WIPO arbitration system.

At present there are 244 country domains, according to the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) Web site. Countries that have adopted WIPO's system include many tiny states as well as Mexico, the Philippines and Venezuela. None of the Western European countries or Canada have signed on.

"We want to create stability so the promise of e-commerce can come true," said a spokeswoman for WIPO, stressing that the United Nations body only looks at intellectual property rights aspects. Since December 1999 WIPO has handled 2000 cases of which 70 percent was resolved, according to the spokeswoman.

Centr, the Council of European National Top-Level Domain Registries, is not impressed with WIPO's efforts.

"We very much believe it is a local policy," said Centr's General Manager Fay Howard. "We welcome any good ideas and we will see which ones fit, but we don't see one policy fitting everybody."

Howard pointed out that rules and regulations differ very much from country to country. "In some countries, such as France and Norway, there are very strict rules for domain name registration so they have no disputes. In other countries, like the U.K., registration is more liberal so there are disputes," she said.

Nominet, which manages the U.K. namespace, said WIPO's UDRP "has some merits but it doesn't meet Nominet's standards.

"It doesn't include mediation, which has been very successful in the U.K.," said a spokeswoman, noting that Nominet has had it's own dispute resolution procedure for three years.

In the Netherlands, the Stichting Internet Domein Registratie Nederland (SIDN) has launched a consultation into the feasibility of a dispute procedure. Until now all conflicts regarding registered domains had to be handled in court. WIPO sees the avoiding of the courts as one of the main selling points of the UDRP.

To win a case in the WIPO system, the challenger has to prove three things, the spokeswoman for WIPO said: that the domain name in question is identical or similar to your trademark; that the person who registered it has no legitimate interest; and that he or she has registered and used the domain in bad faith.

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4:30pm ET, 4/16

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