WIPO Marks 10th Anniversary of UDRP
October 12, 2009
WIPO marked the tenth anniversary of the Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP) on October 12, 2009 with a conference that brought together over 200 stakeholders from around the world. The conference sought to take stock of the UDRP experience and draw lessons with a view to informing other processes relating to the future of the Domain Name System (DNS) and in the broader context of intellectual property.
The UDRP, a quick and cost effective dispute resolution procedure targeting cybersquatters, has met with great demand. Since December 1999, the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center has administered over 16,000 proceedings (the 16,000th decision was notified today) under the UDRP or UDRP-related policies. The UDRP was adopted by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) at the initiative of, and with drafting and implementation assistance from WIPO.
The forward-looking conference was opened by WIPO Director General Francis Gurry (recorded message and the full Conference program and speaker list is available at www.wipo.int/amc/en/events/workshops/2009/10yrs-udrp/program/) On this milestone anniversary, Mr. Gurry said “I think what we can say after ten years of the UDRP is that it has been a very successful experiment” because it fulfilled a need and it led to a predictable legal system. Looking to the future, he said the UDRP is a “dynamic instrument” and welcomed discussion on the challenges ahead.
Conference presentations and discussions were led by intellectual property counsel, UDRP and DNS stakeholders, WIPO domain name panelists, and authorities and individuals concerned with the implementation of dispute resolution mechanisms, including ICANN.
Presentations covered three main themes, namely the development of UDRP jurisprudence and practice, new dispute resolution mechanisms for ICANN’s planned significant expansion of the DNS, and the emergence generally of conflict between online “identities” and trademark rights as well as issues of accountability of intermediaries.
Several presenters focused on the defining features of the UDRP and how these have performed since 1999. They identified which of these features would lend themselves to the resolution of other types of disputes in relation to the digital or physical world. The WIPO Center shared a number of ideas which it is currently exploring to streamline the filing conduct and decision of WIPO UDRP cases.
WIPO representatives raised the possibility of opportunities for complainants to express “an intent to file”, including to facilitate identification of respondents in cases involving privacy shields. They also discussed the possibility for respondents to express early consent to transfer, or to indicate an intent to participate in the UDRP proceedings through the filing of a response. Other WIPO concepts include form complaints in anticipated default cases, as well as panel decisions on a summary basis in obvious cases of this type, all subject to adequate safeguards for preserving party equality and respondent participation.
Participants also discussed the role information technology has played in the UDRP domain name dispute resolution process and identified likely areas of development in this area. Of particular note was the popular topic of WIPO’s eUDRP Intitiative, a WIPO Center proposal submitted to ICANN in December 2008 to remove the requirement to submit and distribute paper copies of pleadings relating to the UDRP process. The eUDRP Intitiative, which is currently under consideration by ICANN, seeks to benefit all parties by eliminating the use of vast quantities of paper and improving the timeliness of UDRP proceeding without prejudicing either complainants or respondents.
Several presenters, including ICANN officials, brand owners, Internet experts and WIPO Center staff, addressed ICANN’s initiative to introduce potentially large numbers of new generic Top Level Domains (New gTLDs). This highly topical subject generated significant interest among participants, and covered WIPO’s advice to safeguard the legitimate interests of trademark owners and other good faith DNS actors during this program’s application (pre-delegation) and subsequent operational (post-delegation) phases.
Participants took advantage of open discussion periods to pose questions to presenters and share their concerns on these and other topics concerning the Internet, including the extent of potential registry duties to address trademark infringement in their name spaces. They raised questions as to how other uniform dispute resolution procedures might be developed and tailored to meet the evolving possibilities for online infringements of real and virtual world goods and services.
The UDRP provides trademark owners with an administrative mechanism for the efficient resolution of disputes arising out of the bad-faith registration and use by third parties of Internet domain names corresponding to those trademark rights. The UDRP applies to disputes in generic top-level domains (gTLDs) (e.g., .com, .net, .org, .mobi), as well as an increasing number of country code top-level domains (ccTLDs) (e.g., .ch, .es, .fr, .nl, .me).
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