New Zealand likely to implement '.nz' dispute resolution process

New Zealand

InternetNZ, which through the Office of the Domain Name Commissioner oversees the management of the '.nz' county-code top-level domain, has set up a working group to discuss the implementation of a dispute resolution process for '.nz' domain names.

At present, the only resort for a trademark or brand owner who believes that someone has wrongfully taken its '.nz' domain name is High Court litigation. The causes of action are usually passing off and breach of the Fair Trading Act 1986 (misleading and deceptive conduct in the course of trade). Several New Zealand domain name cases have been decided in favour of trademark/brand owners. However, High Court litigation is expensive and often time-consuming.

Following a consultation, InternetNZ has decided that New Zealand needs a domain name dispute resolution system. Two options have been identified. The first is a New Zealand system based on the United Kingdom's Nominet dispute resolution process. The second is to use the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP) process.

The UDRP process is familiar to many New Zealanders since this is the one used in disputes over '.com' domain names. The system is generally found to be quick and cost-effective. On the other hand, having a New Zealand based system would have its benefits. Despite modern technology, it is easier to communicate when the deciding body is in the same time zone.

There are advantages for New Zealand in being able to determine its own criteria for deciding complaints. However, there may be difficulties in choosing the correct criteria, whereas the WIPO UDRP criteria are well established, meaning that much of the hard work would be saved. It should also be noted that WIPO can work with a domain name registry to determine a process that meets the needs of a specific country.

Any dispute resolution system will only be successful if it has teeth. The deciding body must have the power to order the transfer of the domain name, including the ability for the registrar to transfer the domain name when ordered to do so. Successful parties should have the possibility to recover costs. The system must also be fast and relatively inexpensive.

Trademark/brand owners in New Zealand look set to benefit no matter which system is chosen. The existence of a more user-friendly system should also act as a deterrent to cybersquatters since, at present, they know that a trademark/brand owner has no choice but to litigate.

Kate Duckworth, Baldwins, Wellington

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