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WIPO Conference – As the UDRP Turns 20: Looking Back, Looking Ahead

October 24, 2019

On October 21, 2019, WIPO commemorated the 20th anniversary of the Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP) with a Conference at its Headquarters in Geneva.

Born in 1999 as a solution to the problem of bad faith registration of domain names, the WIPO-designed UDRP remains a vital enforcement online tool.  It has so far been used by brand owners from around the world in over 45,000 cases filed with WIPO’s Arbitration and Mediation Center – with record WIPO UDRP case filing levels continuing.

Over 250 brand owners, trademark practitioners, counsel, and other Internet stakeholders, including representatives from INTA and ICANN and some 140 WIPO UDRP Panelists, attended the historic event. 

In opening remarks, thanking WIPO Panelists for their service and dedication to the cause of combating online abuse, WIPO Director General Francis Gurry recalled the extraordinary success of the UDRP as a durable international solution that has addressed a real problem effectively and has helped build trust in the Internet for global commercial transactions.

WIPO Director General Francis Gurry Opens WIPO’s UDRP 20th Anniversary Conference (photo: WIPO/Berrod).

The Conference program looked at a range of informative statistics, heard about the inner workings of the panel decision‑making process, and looked back at how key legal consensus has developed – notably including as to the UDRP’s ability to evolve with the Domain Name System over the years. 

Conference sessions also addressed ADR system design in the Internet platform context and the use of technology to proactively combat trademark-infringing domain name registrations. 

Attendees also learned about the use of the UDRP model as a best practice by country code Top-Level Domain (ccTLD) authorities, including most recently by China for WIPO‑administered disputes under the .CN and .中国 domains.

A session moderated by leading experts David Bernstein of Debevoise & Plimpton and Zak Muscovitch of the Internet Commerce Association took stock of participants’ views on potential changes to the UDRP which is scheduled to undergo a formal review by ICANN beginning in the course of 2020.  The unanimous “vote” in the room was that more harm than good could come from making changes and that ICANN should not take the future success and stability of the UDRP lightly.

WIPO Director General Francis Gurry echoed the view that the UDRP – a creative and proven solution to a global legal problem – is very much worth preserving.

WIPO’s UDRP 20th Anniversary Conference (photo: WIPO/Berrod).

WIPO’s key online UDRP legal resource, available free-of-charge, the WIPO Overview of WIPO Panel Views on Selected UDRP Questions (the WIPO Overview 3.0) was showcased as being cited in nearly three-fourths of all WIPO decisions. 

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