Anybody out there? The right rights balance

Ghost town in the Wild West

A year into the new gTLD program and thank god for the Rights Protection Mechanisms. The online apocalypse never happened; presumably due to the trademark clearinghouse, uniform rapid suspension process, sunrise dispute resolution processes, and PDDRP/RDDRP twins.

With 3.5 million new registrations, spread over more than 400 new gTLDs, brand protection was critical. Maybe it’s time to see just how critical.

Trademark Clearinghouse

Trademarks are registered and validated through a central repository. When someone goes to register a domain name with that mark, e.g., they get a notice telling them it is a trademark. It’s up to them whether to continue.
Where used, the Clearinghouse has a clear deterrent value. Of 500,000 notices sent out, 95 per cent of registrants don’t go on to register the name.

But uptake is less impressive. Just 35,000 trademarks have been registered with the Clearinghouse: the same number as registered in the UK alone last year, and less than two percent of the 2 million active US trademarks. Brand owners simply don’t appear to be interested.

Uniform Rapid Suspension process (URS)

The URS provides a low-cost and faster alternative to the Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Process (UDRP). The UDRP costs $1,500; URS just $375.

At the time of writing there have been 207 cases filed with the National Arbitration Forum and 19 with the Asian Domain Name Dispute Resolution Centre. Hardly a tsunami. In fact, less than 0.01 per cent of new gTLD registrations.

Sunrise Dispute Resolution processes

I was unable to find evidence of any filed cases.

This may reflect a low uptake in sunrise periods overall. It’s not unusual for new gTLDs to emerge from sunrise periods with fewer than 100 registrations. But, the process remains a mandatory requirement for all new registries.


Can you even remember what these were? Certainly no one have used them.

So what’s happening out there?

Research by Sedo and the Domain Name Association shows there is growing but still low awareness of gTLDs: 60 per cent of marketing professionals haven’t heard of them.

Imagine how much deeper you’d have to go to understand the difference between the UDRP and URS, or evaluate the benefits of the Trademark Clearinghouse.

Something we don’t often discuss is how few domain names, percentage-wise, end up causing a dispute. The UDRP, ICANN’s first consensus policy has handled over 40,000 cases since 1999. That sounds like a lot, until you realise it’s only 0.03 per cent of total gTLD registrations. Compare that with the crime rate in the UK, 7 million crimes for a population of 60 million: 400 times greater.

Are the dispute figures masking a wider problem? No, according to James Bladel, Vice President of Policy Planning at GoDaddy. “Compared to the size and scale of the Internet, the rate of infringement is extremely low. GoDaddy manages more than 58 million domain registrations across hundreds of TLDs, but only a tiny fraction (<0.1 per cent) are ever involved in a dispute or law enforcement action. Given the disproportionate amount of time and energy spent by ICANN on these issues, you would think that this is a much larger issue than it truly is.” Meanwhile, registrars complain that new validation requirements are “burdening the entire industry and creating a huge (2 per cent) of false positives”. They argue the cure is out of proportion with the disease. As far as sunrise periods and mechanisms go, we’re now well into the process. Brands have - either through ignorance or just not caring - largely ignored the new mechanisms designed to protect them. One thing that could help is better information from the service providers. It’s difficult to get basic information about uptake and cases from the Trademark Clearinghouse, and National Arbitration Forum. Clear information would help evaluate these new processes. Taken overall, however, as the community reflects on the next round of gTLDs, maybe “proportionality” and “simplicity” would be good watchwords when considering brand protection.

Emily Taylor provides Sunrise Dispute Resolution services through Synetergy and is a registered agent of the Trademark Clearinghouse (no cases to date!).

Emily Taylor serves on the Global Commission on Internet Governance Research Advisory Network.

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