Cybersquatting is at highest levels in five years according to commercial law firm, EMW.
So-called cybersquatters register domain names of existing companies in an effort to re-direct online traffic to their own site or to get the company to purchase the domain name for large amounts of money.
This leads to legal disputes over website addresses, now at record levels.
EMW says that the number of disputes over web addresses adjudicated by the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) reached 3,036 in 2016, up 10 per cent in the last year from 2,754, and up by two-thirds (66 per cent) in the past decade from 1,824.
The law firm added that the number of cases where a UK-based company brought a complaint against a cyber squatter rose 4 per cent to a four year high in 2016, including cases involving Shell, Virgin, and Vodafone Group.
EMW Principal, Mark Finn, said: “Businesses are increasingly willing to pursue domain name disputes against Chinese and foreign companies to protect their brand, especially in a new market.
“As online shopping becomes ever-more important to business growth potential, a brand’s online presence is increasingly vital to its overall success. As a result, companies are being forced to dedicate significant resource to resolve these disputes against squatters, who often hope to hold them to ransom.”
The number of domain names is growing fast, indicating that cybersquatting is likely to continue.
UK listed Mind + Machines Group owns and operate a number of generic top-level domain assets, including .London. In a trading update last month, the company reported top line billings growth of 100 per cent for the year ended 31 December 2016.
Toby Hall, CEO of Mind + Machines Group, said: “As we look forward into 2017, our focus will be to continue monetising our portfolio both in terms of new registrations and renewals across our three main regions of focus - Asia, particularly China, Europe and the US, with a natural emphasis towards those markets showing greatest growth."