Most of us would be put off if a court issued a press release cheering the number of prisoners its judges had put behind bars or the number of tenants it had helped landlords to evict. That seems antithetical to the neutral adjudication of disputes, and ethical rules regularly decry such “appearance of bias.” Yet WIPO seems to think it perfectly natural to crow about its arbitrators’ favoritism for complainants against “cybersquatters” in UDRP proceedings. It issued a release that reads like a solicitation for trademark claimants’ business, not a promotion of neutral arbitration services:
The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) saw a 20% increase in the number of cybersquatting (abusive registration of trademarks as domain names) cases filed in 2005 as compared to 2004. In 2005, a total of 1,456 cybersquatting cases were filed with WIPO’s Arbitration and Mediation Center. This increase represents the highest number of cybersquatting cases handled by the WIPO Center since 2001….
In the 6,349 decisions they have rendered, WIPO panels have found for the complainant in 5,327 (83.9%) cases.
Now it is not surprising that the World Intellectual Property Organization often aligns itself with intellectual property claimants against those representing the public domain, competition, or non-IP claims. It is disturbing, however, that it expresses this bias while serving as a provider of admistrative panels for the Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy. WIPO is ICANN-accredited to provide panelists for what is supposed to be an “impartial and independent” determination of rights to a domain name.
One might already doubt the impartiality of some WIPO panelists, such as those who decided in past UDRP procedings that
bodacious-tatas.com “is obviously aimed at diverting Internet users to log on to the Respondents site in the erroneous belief that the site in question is owned by the Complainant [Tata Sons Limited]”
and that vivendiuniversalsucks.com “refers to goods or services provided by the Complainant [Vivendi Universal]“. Unfortunately, this release suggests that not only some panelists, but WIPO as the provider responsible for appointing panelists from its lists, has prejudged all respondents as “abusive registra[nts] of trademarks as domain names.”
Small wonder, then, that in administrative proceedings where the complainant chooses the resolution forum, more than 2/3 of complainants have chosen WIPO — a healthy business, at $500-1,250 apiece for WIPO (apart from panelist fees).