Proposal for eUDRP released for public comment

The World Intellectual Property Organization's (WIPO) proposal for a paperless Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP) has been released for public comment.

On December 30 2008 WIPO's Arbitration and Mediation Centre proposed a modification to the rules governing the UDRP. The UDRP is widely recognized as the most inexpensive and expeditious method for trademark owners to cancel or transfer domain names that are identical or confusingly similar to their own marks. WIPO, which arbitrates a majority of the UDRP complaints filed each year, called for “an essentially paperless UDRP” to be achieved “without causing undue prejudice to either party”.  
On July 13 2009 the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the non-profit corporation charged with administering the domain name system, responded by launching WIPO’s eUDRP proposal for public comment. 
WIPO’s proposal does not alter the UDRP itself. Rather, it aspires to remove hard copy filings of complaints and responses from the UDRP process altogether. The current UDRP Rules – in concert with the supplemental rules of several ICANN-accredited dispute resolution providers – mandate multiple hard copies of all filings for the arbitrator, the complainant, the respondent and the domain name registrar.
Importantly, WIPO’s proposal “does not free a [dispute resolution] provider from a continuing obligation to provide written notice of [a] dispute to the respondent”. Rather, it merely removes the requirement that a hard copy of the complaint accompany such written notice. 
WIPO has characterized, and thus rationalized, the eUDRP proposal as:
  • green - due to environmentally-friendly reductions in paper use;
  • frugal - thanks to reduced printing, collating and shipping costs;
  • logical - most complainants already file complete electronic pleadings;
  • effective - due to a suggested 96% successful delivery rate for complaint emails; and
  • expedited - by virtue of cutting delays spent waiting for hard copies.
WIPO’s eUDRP proposal has already received public support from the National Arbitration Forum, which added that dispute resolution providers often bear the burden of printing and mailing hard copies of amended complaints (because of an anecdotal 90% deficiency rate for original UDRP complaints filed with the forum). 
The eUDRP has also received an endorsement from Nominet, the '.uk' domain name registry, which migrated its dispute resolution service to a paperless process in July 2008. Even the Czech Arbitration Court, another ICANN-accredited dispute resolution provider, has begun using a fully electronic filing system via a web-based 'chess card' authentication system.
Given the benefits of the eUDRP, it is surprising that, thus far, trademark owners have failed to voice their support of the proposal to ICANN. Depending on the size of a UDRP complaint (along with attached exhibits), disbursements for printing, collating and shipping can be substantial. Moreover, according to WIPO, current hard-copy UDRP filing requirements typically slow down the entire dispute resolution process by several days.
The public consultation period will remain open until August 12 2009. It is hoped that trademark owners and their representatives will file written comments on the eUDRP proposal prior to the closing date.
James L Bikoff and Phillip V Marano, Silverberg Goldman & Bikoff, Washington DC

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