Domain name disputes: the UDRP 10 years on by Tony Willoughby

Legal context: Domain name disputes now form a significant practice area for IP lawyers. However, they rarely merit the expense of litigation. The favoured route to resolution of these disputes tends to be the Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) policies for the various domains, the most used of which is the Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP), which celebrates its 10th anniversary this year (2009).Key points: Complaints launched under the UDRP are decided by independent panellists selected from lists held by the various UDRP service providers, one of which is the World Intellectual Property Organization. The panellists are mainly trade mark lawyers. They come from all over the world. That fact combined with the fact that there is no system of binding precedent under the UDRP means that there is scope for divergence of view among panellists. Of late, panellists have been demonstrating potentially significant divergence of views in relation to the practices of domainers (ie entities whose business is the commercial exploitation of domain names). This article celebrates the success of the UDRP over the last 10 years, but highlights the need for consensus among panellists if the UDRP is to maintain its usefulness in the face of these new domainer practices and principally the automated bulk transfer and commercialisation of domain names.Practical significance: If some route to consensus is not found (by amendment to the UDRP or otherwise), there is a risk that the outcome of disputes involving domainers as respondents will become something of a lottery, leading to a reduced willingness on the part of rights owners to rely on an otherwise cheap and effective form of ADR.To download this research in paper by Tony Willoughby in the Journal of Intellectual Property Law & Practice in full, see: