The United Nations World Intellectual Property Organisation has launched a wave of tribunals in a bid to rid the internet of a potentially damaging commercial problem - cyber-squatting.
Cyber-squatting involves registering the name of a website that mirrors the moniker of a large corporation. When the company wants to set up a website, the cyber-squatter charges for the transfer of the rights to the URL.
Under legal procedures finalised in December, a panel of WIPO-appointed experts can now order a change in ownership of an internet address, following a legal bid by a company whose trade marks are similar to its URL, and the cybersquatter will get no compensation.
There are already 89 cases filed with the Switzerland-based institution and some have already been completed. WIPO is supposed to tackle clear abuse, leaving complex cases to the courts.
An early hearing involved the World Wrestling Federation, which won a case against Michael Bosman, of Redlands, California, who had registered worldwrestlingfederation.com with Melbourne IT, based in Australia.
Because the website involved a top level domain name (.com, .net and .org), the registrar had an agreement with the International Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), that any dispute over a URL would be subject to global arbitration. That process has now taken place and control of the Web site address has moved to WWF.
Australian telecom company Telstra won a victory against the oddly-named Nuclear Marshmallows, an unregistered business name of an unidentifiable business of Gosford, New South Wales. The panel scrapped the company's claim to telstra.org.
The only good news for cyber-squatters is that they are liable neither to damages claims nor costs.