Remember CyberSquatting? It's Back

We thought that cybersquatting — the practice of snatching a trademarked Web name and selling it back to its rightful owner — was a relic of the old Web boom, about as outdated as a Startac. We were wrong!

Cybersquatting complaints hit a record high of 2,156 last year, a 16% increase over 2006, says the World Intellectual Property organisation. There is one newish reason for this, if we’re interpreting WIPO’s dense, oblique press release correctly: The ability of squatters to profit not just by extorting the site’s right full owners, but by jamming it full of paid links.

So who’s getting screwed? Everyone, WIPO says, but especially big pharama and manufacturers that crank out tons of new products and product names every year. And, just about everyone else: Last year the group handled domain complaints related to:

“.. current trends and upcoming events (e.g., hybrid car technology; the Airbus A380 double-deck wide-body jet; the social network services Facebook and MySpace; the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa; the comeback music tour of The Police); architectural landmarks (e.g., Agbar Tower (Barcelona), Burj Al Arab Hotel (Dubai), Madison Square Garden (New York City); charities, foundations, and museums (e.g., the March of Dimes, the Hitachi Foundation, the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation and Lance Armstrong’s Livestrong Foundation, The Prince’s Trust, the British Museum); educational institutions (e.g., Harvard Business School, University of Auckland); sports teams, leagues and personalities (e.g., the American Football League and Superbowl, the Greek football team Panathinaikos, tennis star Bj√∂rn Borg); actors and personalities past and present (e.g., Marlene Dietrich, Noel Coward, Oprah Winfrey, Martha Stewart, Xuxa, Eric Bana, Stella McCartney, Dire Straits); popular culture (e.g., J.R.R. Tolkien’s Hobbit, Fox Broadcasting’s Simpsons, Marvel Comics’ Silver Surfer); and numerical identifiers (e.g., 4711).

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