Disputes involving ccTLDs can now be settled out of court


After extensive consultation with the Austrian internet community, NIC.at - the registry for '.at' domain names - has launched a dispute resolution system to handle clashes over country-code top-level domain names. The new system is designed to provide a quick, cost-effective alternative to legal proceedings.

Until now, disputes involving domain names ending in '.at' have had to be decided by courts of general jurisdiction. Such proceedings often take a long time, resulting in great expense for the parties, and usually result in the deletion of the domain name. Once deleted, the domain name is again made available to the general public. Thus, even if the complainant wins the case, nothing ensures that it actually gets the domain name. The new arbitration system is quick and cost effective. It also enables the arbitrator(s) to transfer the disputed domain to the complainant.

Initiating arbitration proceedings is easy: If a party believes that it has rights to a domain name - by way of name rights, trademark rights or copyright, or based on an unfair competition claim - it may submit a complaint with the Arbitration Office (Streitschlichtung), thereby accepting NIC.at's new dispute resolution policy and rules of procedure. The domain name registrant is then informed of the complaint and may submit an answer. The parties then have the option of choosing to have the dispute settled by a single arbitrator (costing €600) or a panel of three arbitrators (costing €1,000). Once the parties have made their arguments and submitted all their evidence, the panel shall reach a decision within 14 days. The panel's decision shall be final unless the losing party objects and files a complaint with a court of general jurisdiction.

NIC.at's new dispute resolution policy and rules of procedure are based on the Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP) and UDRP Rules of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers.

Georg Schönherr and Katharina Glaser, Dr Gerhard Engin-Deniz & Dr Christian Reimitz Rechtsanwalt, Vienna

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