Domain-Name Wars, Rise of the Cybersquatters

When FreeLegoPorn.com began publishing pornographic images created with Lego toys, Lego acted quickly. The content available on the site consisted of animated mini-figures doing very explicit things. We were not amused, says Peter Kjaer, an attorney for Denmark-based Lego. Lego didn’t go to court. Instead it filed a complaint with the World Intellectual Property Organisation, which ruled in its favor. The domain registrar for FreeLegoPorn.com, GoDaddy.com, eventually shut down the site and transferred the domain name to Lego under ICANN rules. But it’s not just Lego and Verizon that are suffering. Green energy is a hot topic, so cybersquatters have been targeting wind and solar energy start-ups. And malicious sites can create havoc with a brand’s reputation. Cybersquatting activity rose by 18% last year, with a documented 440,584 cybersquatting sites in the fourth quarter of last year alone, according to MarkMonitor’s annual Brandjacking Index report. And WIPO cited an 8% jump in dispute filings in 2008, to 2,329 complaints — a new record. Now, ICANN is preparing to open a potentially unlimited number of new top-level domains as early as the first quarter of 2010 — via Slashdot

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