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June 12, 2000

U.N.: U.S. involved in majority of cybersquatting cases

GENEVA (AP) -- The United States accounts for more than half the cases filed under a new global system to curb "cybersquatting" that is attracting complainants in ever-increasing numbers, the United Nations said Friday.

Famous people as well as corporations and sports organizations are among the 569 complainants that have used the system to defend their rights since it was founded last December, the U.N. World Intellectual Property Organization said.

Although cases so far have involved parties in 53 countries, their distribution reflects global Internet access distribution. Of the complainants, 299 were based in the United States, which also was home to 332 of the respondents.

So far, 179 cases have been resolved and 147 of them have ended with the disputed domain name being transferred to the complainant.

Last week, WIPO upheld a complaint against an American dealer in famous names, saying that he had no rights to the name juliaroberts.com.

"The rising number of alleged cybersquatting cases shows the growing premium placed on domain names by companies and individuals," WIPO official Francis Gurry said.

Anyone can register a Web address for about $70. This has led to the practice of "cybersquatting," where people register names of celebrities or well-known companies, then try to sell them for high fees to their namesakes.

WIPO finalized rules against "cybersquatting" and agreed on dispute settlement procedures last year at the request of the U.S.-based Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers. The rules originally applied to domain names ending in .com, .net and .org -- a realm governed by ICANN, which the U.S. government established in 1998 to oversee Internet policy.

ICANN established the arbitration procedures to help parties avoid expensive legal costs.

Since then, six national registries -- Ascencion Island (.ac), British Indian Ocean Territory (.io), Niue (.nu), St. Helena (.sh), Tuvalu (.tv) and Western Samoa (.ws) -- have joined the scheme. Only in Niue has any dispute yet been filed.

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