Today at the ICANN meeting in Dublin, ICANN staff hosted a session to discuss ICANN’s issues report on reviewing all rights protection mechanism in all generic top level domain names. This includes a review of the UDRP (Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy), the oldest trademark rights dispute mechanism in the ICANN ecosystem. 

Today at the ICANN meeting in Dublin, ICANN staff hosted a session to discuss ICANN’s issues report on reviewing all rights protection mechanism in all generic top level domain names. This includes a review of the UDRP (Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy), the oldest trademark rights dispute mechanism in the ICANN ecosystem. 

The UDRP is a mandatory dispute resolution process applicable to all generic top level domain names. The UDRP gives the panelist authority to issue an order requiring transfer or cancellation of a domain name, as well as issuing a finding that the claim should be denied or even that the claim was brought in bad faith and that the complainant has engaged in “reverse domain name hijacking.” Thousands of UDRP complaints are filed every year and are heard by the two major providers, the Forum (formerly the National Arbitration Forum) and the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO).

A representative of the “domainer” community called for UDRP reform while a representative of one of the UDRP dispute providers called for caution, noting how stable and predictable the UDRP process has become over its 14 years.

What became clear from the meeting is that there is a strong appetite among ICANN  insiders to reconsider the UDRP as well as the rights protection mechanisms for the new gTLDs. The UDRP has provided a very important pressure valve which allows trademark owners to confront straightforward cases of cybersquatting without having to seek relief from the courts. While there could be some positive reforms to the UDRP – such as seeking a change that would allow a trademark owner to seek relief in cases where a domain name was registered before the trademark rights came into existence but was used in bad faith after the trademark rights came into existence – there are also reforms which would not be positive for brand owners. The trademark community needs to be vigilant and participate in this process both online and in person at ICANN meetings, either directly or through trademark counsel with ICANN experience. 

We will keep you up to date on this issue and other important issues under discussion here at the ICANN meeting in Dublin.