February 12, 2014

A New Tool to Fight Cybersquatters

Have you spent substantial resources (both money and manpower) to protect your company's valuable brand equity only to discover that someone else has registered an Internet domain name which incorporates your trademark? Historically, brand owners could file a UDRP (an administrative proceeding which allows brand owners to cancel or obtain the disputed domain name). Now, brand owners have another option which is aimed at providing rapid relief for the most clear-cut cases of infringement — the Uniform Rapid Suspension System (URS). 

The URS system is designed especially for the new generic top-level domains (gTLDs) and is a complement (not a replacement) to the existing UDRP system. It is important to note that a URS complaint cannot be filed against a domain that is part of any active UDRP proceeding. While the URS system has been designed to be a scaled back version of the UDRP system, there are some differences that may not make the URS appropriate for all cases involving domain disputes.

For example, while the UDRP procedure allows a brand owner to either cancel or request the transfer of the registration, the URS system can only suspend a domain for the current registration period (and potentially one additional year). In general, if brand owners are spending resources to fight a domain registered and used in bad faith, they may want the option of owning and ultimately controlling the domain.

Further, the URS system has additional safeguards for registrants, such as allowing registrants to request extensions of time for filings, which if abused could result in the proceeding being longer in duration than a routine UDRP proceeding. Moreover, the filing fees for a URS complaint are non-refundable. As a result, if a complaint is found to be deficient, it will be dismissed and the initial filing fee is lost. A new complaint must be filed, along with a new filing fee.

Finally, the URS system incorporates penalties for brand owners deemed to have filed abusive complaints including, but not limited to, a permanent bar from utilizing the URS system in certain cases. As a result, the URS system provides additional safeguards for registrants, which are not present in UDRP proceedings.

While the new URS system may not be optimal in all domain name disputes, it does offer brand owners another tool in their fight against cybersquatters. Only time will tell how efficient and effective the tool will be for infringements related to the new gTLDs.

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