90¨f e-brands ‘suffering domain name infringement’

A leading online copyright specialist has called for urgent tightening of controls for policing the Net.

Net Searchers, which provides Internet brand and trademark protection services, has published its Net Protection Survey 2000, based on interviews with 4,000 intellectual property specialists in Europe and the US. The survey questioned law firms and in-house intellectual property (IP) lawyers within a wide range of industries, ranging from IT to biotechnology and sports marketing.

Its research came to the alarming conclusion that there has been massive growth in all types of IP infringement since the first Net Protection survey in 1998. An estimated 90 per cent of companies with an online presence are now suffering from some form of IP infringement.

Other key findings include:

– 90 per cent of respondents have experienced domain name infringement on the Internet. This figure is a 5 per cent increase on 1998 figures.

– The number of parody sites has risen by 2,200 per cent.

– Counterfeiting has increased by 1,650 per cent.

– Metatag infringements have risen by 1,280 per cent. Metatags are ways to increase the visibility of a website on a search engine.

– Copyright infringements saw a 105 per cent rise.

– 90 per cent of infringements experienced by respondents were in the .com jurisdiction. The UK’s .co.uk suffix was the next most popular domain for infringers, followed by Germany’s .de.

– Adoption of the Universal Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP) across country domains such as .uk and .fr is supported by 96 per cent of Net Protection Survey 2000 respondents. At present, the UDRP is being used for .com, .org and .net domain names, but its take-up by country registries has been slow.

– 81 per cent of respondents were in support of introducing the proposed European .eu domain name suffix. Over three-quarters thought that .eu should take measures to protect famous names, so ensuring that names are only sold to those with a legitimate claim.

Net Searchers says companies are relying on part-time procedures to provide full-time protection of IP. These include cursory measures such as employee observation and intelligence fed from sales forces.

Net Searchers director Nick Wood believes these measure are inadequate: “The protection of intellectual property on the Internet is about creating the right environment in which e-commerce can flourish. Businesses need to be confident that when users tap in the name of their company, they can reach it without being ambushed by a pornographer, an activist or someone else trying to exploit that name.

“This survey shows just how concerned trademark owners are at increasingly high levels of infringement. I believe there needs to be more debate on the policies of the domain name registries, which allow anyone to register anything without undertaking any checks and the value of the Uniform Dispute Resolution Procedure.”

The system has enabled nearly 1,000 trademark owners to win back stolen dot-com names held at a registry in the US. But it has yet to be adopted by any European registry.

Wood adds: “It is of great concern to us that .uk is becoming the domain of choice for infringers because the authorities do not have a practical system in place to help those who have fallen victim to these practices.”

Further details on the Net Protection Survey 2000 can be found at www.netsearchers.net/survey.

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