The Uniform Domain-Name Dispute-Resolution Policy (UDRP) is a process established by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) for the resolution of disputes regarding the registration of internet domain names. The UDRP currently applies to all generic top level domains (.com, .net, .org, etc.), some country code top-level domains, and some older top level domains in specific circumstances.
When ICANN was first set up, one of the core tasks assigned to it was "The Trademark Dilemma", the use of trade marks as domain names without the trademark owner's consent. By the late 1990s, such use was identified as problematic and likely to lead to consumers being misled. In the United Kingdom, the Court of Appeal described such domain names as "an instrument of fraud".
One of ICANN's first steps was to commission the United Nations World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) to produce a report on the conflict between trademarks and domain names. Published on 30 April 1999, the WIPO Report recommended the establishment of a "mandatory administrative procedure concerning abusive registrations", which would allow for a "neutral venue in the context of disputes that are often international in nature." The procedure was not intended to deal with cases with competing rights, nor would it exclude the jurisdiction of the courts. It would, however, be mandatory in the sense that "each domain name application would, in the domain name agreement, be required to submit to the procedure if a claim was initiated against it by a third party
The WIPO Report sets out the now-familiar three-stage test of the UDRP.
Following adoption by ICANN, the UDRP was launched on 1 December 1999, and the first case determined under it by WIPO was World Wrestling Federation Entertainment, Inc v. Michael Bosman, involving the domain name worldwrestlingfederation.com
Providers of the UDRP are:
When a registrant chooses a domain name, the registrant must "represent and warrant", among other things, that registering the name "will not infringe upon or otherwise violate the rights of any third party", and agree to participate in an arbitration-like proceeding should any third party assert such a claim.
A complainant in a UDRP proceeding must establish three elements to succeed:
In a UDRP proceeding, a panel will consider several non-exclusive factors to assess bad faith, such as:
The goal of the UDRP is to create a streamlined process for resolving such disputes. It was envisioned that this process would be quicker and less expensive than a standard legal challenge. The costs to hire a UDRP provider to handle a complaint often start around US$1,000 to $2,000.
If a party loses a UDRP proceeding, in many jurisdictions it may still bring a lawsuit against the domain name registrant under local law. For example, the administrative panel's UDRP decision can be challenged and overturned in a U.S. court of law by means of e.g. the Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act. If a domain name registrant loses a UDRP proceeding, it must file a lawsuit against the trademark holder within ten days to prevent ICANN from transferring the domain name.
The UDRP process has already been used in a number of well-known cases, such as Madonna Ciccone, p/k/a Madonna v. Dan Parisi and "Madonna.com". In this case, the arbitration panel found against the defendant registrant based on all three of the above factors and ordered the domain name turned over to Madonna.
Often there is contention over similar but not identical domain names, in which the offended party files a court action claiming trademark or copyright infringement. For example, actor Robert De Niro has claimed ownership of all domain names incorporating the text "Tribeca" for domain names with any content related to film festivals. In particular, he has a dispute with the owner of the website http://tribeca.net.
In 2012, ICANN launched a process to create new generic top-level domains. Over 1,900 applications were made. As part of the expansion of the domain name system, ICANN introduced a number of new brand protection mechanisms. Opinions differ as to whether or not these new processes will be effective. Industry commentators predict that the UDRP will continue to be used, and that there will be a "substantial increase in cybersquatting". Evidence from previous expansions of the namespace, however, indicates the continued dominance of .com both in size and as the first-choice domain for cybersquatting (based on number of disputes).
Previous expansions of the namespace have failed to capture the public imagination or to pose a competitive threat to the gorilla in the market, .com. According to WIPO, of 42,000 UDRP filings to date, 80% were for .com domains, and of the new gTLDs, only .info has attracted any volume of UDRP disputes (3% of cases filed)