Tuesday, 15 January 2008

Because some things never change...

It has been a very long time since we have heard any news on ICANN's Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP). It has actually been even longer, since the first study on domain name disputes - Fair.com? (http://aix1.uottawa.ca/~geist/geistudrp.pdf) - by Michael Geist was publised and showed a rather concerning pattern of trademark owners winning in most of the cases. The results of Geist's study were quite revealing: the success rate for complainants of all the cases brought before WIPO panels was, at the time, 82.2%. This relevation brought to light the inadequecies of the system and raised concerns over various issues such as forum shopping.
However, almost seven years after the study, a new report comes to light and shows ICANN's incapacity, inability or indiference to address issues that have constituted procedural flaws within the UDRP ever since its inception.
In a very recent article, the Wall Street Journal has reported that in 2007 domain name disputes have reached an all-time high (http://blogs.wsj.com/law/2008/01/11/domain-name-disputes-at-an-all-time-high/). According to data from the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO), in 2007 domain name disputes have reached a 2,156 fraction, making it its most successful year yet. Of all these cases, 85% of trademark owners have prevailed.
Even though we can not safely argue that this high percentage is unsubstantiated, still this number is rather alarming.
With the number of dispute resolution providers dropping (since the creation of the UDRP ICANN has lost two of its service providers and has only added one), WIPO is still receiving the majority of the disputes and for obvious reasons. So what is the conclusion? Just because the criticism against the UDRP has gone quite, it doesn't mean that the system is functioning properly. The UDRP obviously still suffers from procedural and substantive issues; and, since businesses and entrepreneurs are depending on domain names to build their businesses online, it is about time we start addressing and answering some very crucial questions - what is - in reality - the legal nature of domain names?

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