The main domain name dispute resolution service, provided by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), had its 20th anniversary recently, and WIPO turned back the clock and looked at its achievements over this time at a conference held at its Swiss headquarters in Geneva.
In the 20 years since 1999 WIPO has adjudicated over 45,000 cases after they established the first dispute resolution service, and there are now another 6 ICANN-approved providers of dispute resolution services. WIPO noted their Uniform Dispute Resolution Service (UDRP) was “born in 1999 as a solution to the problem of bad faith registration of domain names … [and it] 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.”
As domain name registrations continue to grow around the world, so to do the cases WIPO and other providers arbitrate as criminals and fraudsters seek to take advantage of brand owners and internet users.
Speaking at a conference WIPO held to commemorate the anniversary, 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.”
The conference 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. There was also a discussion 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 as well as about proposed changes to UDRP, which is scheduled to undergo a formal review by ICANN in 2020.
According to a post on the Giga.law blog, over 9 in 10 (93.8%) of domain name disputes have resulted in the transfer to the complainant, usually a trademark holder, in 2019, up from the average of 89.2%. Giga.law also noted other interesting statistics reported at the meeting included about half of all UDRP decisions today involve a privacy service; 4.6% of cases are decided by a 3-member panel; email-related fraud cases have increased 481% and counterfeit product disputes have risen 3,076%.
“One of the more interesting sessions during the meeting,” Giga.law noted, “focused on a conversation about ‘the future of the UDRP,’ with discussions about changes affecting such things as whether UDRP decisions should be subject to appeal; whether the UDRP process should include an attempt at mediation (such as in the .uk dispute policy); whether the ‘registration and use’ in bad faith element should be changed to ‘registration or use’ in bad faith (as in many ccTLD dispute policies); whether a finding of ‘reverse domain name hijacking’ should allow for penalties; whether the UDRP should adopt a ‘loser pays’ model; and many more.”
There was also a consensus that while some changes may be desirable, overall UDRP is working well after 2 decades not just for trademark holders but also all law abiding domain name registrants.