Ireland launches its domain name dispute resolution policy

Ireland

The Irish Domain Name Registry has introduced its long-awaited dispute resolution policy, which provides that a party may initiate an administrative proceeding if it is of the view that a domain name was wrongly registered by another party. Under the rules of procedures applying to the '.ie' country-code top-level domain, an independent panel appointed by the World Intellectual Property Organization will order the transfer of a disputed domain name if the complainant can prove that it has rights to the name and the registrant does not.

The complainant carries the burden of proving that:

  • the domain name is identical or misleadingly similar to a protected identifier (eg, a trademark or personal name), in which the complainant has rights;

  • the registrant has no rights in law or legitimate interests in respect of the domain name; and

  • the domain name was registered or is being used in bad faith.

Because most disputes arise out of bad-faith registrations, the policy provides that the following factors, among other things, may be construed as evidence of registration or use of a domain name in bad faith:

  • the domain name was registered or is being used primarily for the purposes of selling, renting, licensing or otherwise transferring the registration to the complainant or to a competitor of the complainant for valuable consideration;

  • the domain name was registered or is being used primarily in order to prevent the complainant from using it for a protected identifier;

  • the domain name was registered and is being used primarily for the purpose of interfering with or disrupting the complainant's business;

  • the registrant has intentionally attempted to attract internet users to a website or other online location by creating confusion with a protected identifier in which the complainant has rights;

  • the domain name is being used in a way that is likely to dilute the reputation of a trademark in which the complainant has rights; or

  • the registrant has intentionally provided misleading or false information when applying for the domain name registration.

While the policy and rules are certainly to be welcomed, it must be borne in mind that the administrative panel may only confirm, cancel or transfer the registration to the complainant. Therefore, even though the policy may enable the complainant to gain control of a domain name that it has a legitimate right to use, it does not address the underlying issue of infringement of intellectual property rights. Rights owners may, however, start court proceedings against a domain holder or a party to an administrative proceeding at any time.

Patricia McGovern and Aine Matthews, LK Shields Solicitors, Dublin

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