Updates to the way in which domain disputes work

By Peter Shackleton


One of the primary means of dealing with cybersquating has, for some years, has been the Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) options, the template for which and most frequently used is the Uniform Dispute Resolution Policy or (UDRP). To ensure the policy retains its relevance it is updated every 12 months or so under the guidance of the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO), the latest set of changes being released in July this year which have provided some very relevant and useful protection for brands and trademark owners who use it.

Some of the more relevant changes relate to measures to address ‘Cyberfight’ and ‘quick transfer’, which have are summarised below. The full text of changes can be found on the ICANN website icann.org/resources/pages/udrp-rules-2015-03-11-en.

Previous UDRP guidelines required that when a complaint was filed it was issued to the respondent (the current domain registrant) at the same time as the complaint was submitted to the WIPO center, which handles the dispute. This process had two negative implications;

  • It could initiate a ‘cyberfight’ between the respondent and the complainant about the validity of the dispute which, on occasion, could become tantamount to a virtual bar room brawl

  • Alternatively the respondent could look to immediately transfer the domain to a different registrar, meaning proceedings would need to be reinitiated and provide the respondent with an opportunity to sell / pass on the domain before new proceedings could be filed

The revised process, which came into place on July 31st mean complainants are now filed directly with the WIPO center and the respondent is not copied. The WIPO center will then inform the registrar, who is obliged to implement a ‘registrar lock’ (i.e. no modification of registrant / registrar details can be made, but the domain will still resolve and can be renewed) and confirm the lock is in place. All of this is done, before the respondent is notified, thus removing the ‘back door’ (the ability to transfer away / update whois details etc), before any lock is put in place.

On the other side of the fence, this will obviously cause frustration to registrants and companies who are inappropriately forced to respond to a UDRP complaint, but in the instances where a dispute has been legitimately filed, it will ensure that the dispute is heard and remove the pre emptive spats and hasty exists via the ‘back door’. Useful updates to the policy.