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Cybersquatters develop taste for .ch

.ch is proving popular among cybersquatters swissinfo.ch

Cybersquatting disputes involving Switzerland's .ch domain name are among the highest of all country codes, according to a United Nations agency.

This content was published on February 11, 2006 - 10:40

Since May 2004 the country's "dispute resolution service", operated by the Geneva-based World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), has dealt with 53 complaints.

The Swiss figure represents 16 per cent of all country code domain name procedures handled by the WIPO's arbitration and mediation centre since 1999.

Cases have included battles by technology giant Hitachi over www.hitachi.ch and brewer Feldschlösschen over www.feldschlössli.ch.

Christian Wichard, deputy director of the centre, told swissinfo that one of the reasons for the high number of .ch cases is the low cost of challenging cybersquatters in Switzerland.

The first step of the Swiss resolution procedure – a mediation phase when cases are often resolved – costs SFr600 ($463).

This compares with the $1,500 a complainant in another county would have to pay under a normal WIPO Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP).

"This .ch procedure has been fairly successful," Wichard told swissinfo. "We operate dispute resolution procedures for 46 country codes and out of all these .ch has been by far the most used."

The WIPO centre is not used by countries like Britain (.co.uk) or Germany (.de) where trademark holders have to seek redress through their own justice authorities.

Wichard said other reasons for the relatively high number of Swiss disputes were the big presence of important trademark holders in Switzerland and demand for the .ch country code.

Rise in cybersquatting

Last year saw more than 1,450 cybersquatting cases involving international domain names such as .com, .org and .biz filed with the agency's arbitration and mediation centre – a rise of 20 per cent.

Since the WIPO introduced its fast-track UDRP in December 1999, the centre has handled around 8,500 disputes, including 294 filed by Swiss firms or personalities based in Switzerland.

They include UBS, Credit Suisse, Swiss Re, Swatch, Nestlé and the International Olympic Committee. This week pharmaceutical giant Roche won control of the internet domain name www.tamiflu-vaccine.com.

Wichard said Switzerland ranked in sixth place in terms of countries filing complaints over disputed international domain names.

According to the WIPO, the worldwide increase is principally down to a drop in the price of registering domain names.

From March Switzerland is to do away with the current SFr40 registration fee and only charge an annual fee of SFr35 for domain names ending in .ch.

"The price of registering domain names has gone down dramatically since 2000 and a number of big registrars offer the option of paying only after two weeks," said Wichard.

"This means there are almost professional cybersquatters who register thousands and thousands of domain names."

swissinfo, Adam Beaumont in Geneva

Key facts

Swiss dispute resolution procedure:
In the first instance a telephone call lasting a maximum of one hour is held among the complainant, the holder and a conciliator in a bid to find a solution. This costs SFr600.
If no solution is found then the complainant may request an expert's decision at a cost of SFr2,000.

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In brief

The WIPO says cybersquatting is any registration of a domain name knowing that it infringes the trademark rights of someone else in order to profit from the goodwill embodied in that particular trademark.

According to the WIPO, the primary aim of cybersquatters is to redirect internet traffic to another website carrying banner advertising. Income is generated from each click on the site.

But the practice is also used to direct people to sites selling products or to extort money from trademark owners.

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