The National Arbitration Forum has released its price list for Uniform Rapid Suspension complaints, saying that the cheapest case will cost $375.
That’s for cases involving one to 15 domains. Prices increase based on the number of domains in the filing, capped at $500 for cases involving over 100 names.
The prices are within the range that ICANN had asked of its URS providers.
Some potential URS vendors had argued that $500 was too low to administer the cases and pay lawyers to act as panelists, but changed their tune after ICANN opened up an RFP process.
NAF’s price list also includes response fees of $400 to $500, which are refundable to the prevailing party. There are also extra fees for cases involving more than one panelist.
The prices are found in the NAF’s Supplemental Rules for URS, which have not yet been given the okay by ICANN. NAF expects that to come by July 1.
The US-based National Arbitration Forum has been selected by ICANN as the first provider of Uniform Rapid Supsension services.
NAF, which is one half of the longstanding UDRP duopoly, submitted “an outstanding proposal demonstrating how it would meet all requirements presented in the [Request For Information]“, according to ICANN.
URS is meant to complement UDRP, enabling trademark owners to relatively quickly take down infringing domain names in clear-cut cases of cyberquatting.
Unlike UDRP, URS does not allow prevailing trademark owners to take control of the infringing domain, however. The names are merely suspended by the registry until they expire.
NAF already runs a suspension process, the Rapid Evaluation Service, for ICM Registry’s .xxx gTLD.
While exact pricing has not yet been disclosed, ICANN has previously stated that the successful RFI respondent had offered to process URS case for its target of between $300 and $500 per domain.
ICANN expects to approve more URS providers in future, saying that the system will be modeled on UDRP.
URS will only apply to new gTLDs for the time being, though there will inevitably be a push to have it mandated in legacy gTLDs such as .com in future, should it prove successful.
ICANN may have found a vendor willing to provide Uniform Rapid Suspension services for new gTLDs at $500 or less per case, without having to rewrite the policy to do so.
Last month, Olof Nordling, director of services relations at ICANN, gave the GNSO Council a heads-up that the URS policy may have to be tweaked if ICANN were to hit its fee targets.
But last week, following the receipt of several responses to a URS vendor Request For Information, Nordling seems to have retracted the request.
In a message to Council chair Jonathan Robinson, he wrote:
The deadline for responses to the URS RFI has passed and I’m happy to inform you that we have received several responses which we are now evaluating. Moreover, my first impression is that the situation looks quite promising, both in terms of adherence to the URS text and regarding the target fee. This also means that there is less of an urgency than I previously thought to convene a drafting team (and I’m glad to have been proven wrong in that regard!). There may still be details where such a drafting team can provide useful guidance and I will get back to you with further updates on this and other URS matters as we advance with the evaluations.
The target fee for URS has always been $300 to $500 per case, between a fifth and a third of the fee UDRP providers charge.
Following an initial, private consultation with UDRP providers WIPO and the the National Arbitration Forum, ICANN concluded that that it would miss that target unless the URS was simplified.
But some GNSO members called for a formal, open RFP, in order to figure out just how good a price vendors were willing to offer when they were faced with actual competition.
It seems to have worked.
During a session on URS at the Toronto meeting last month, incumbents WIPO and NAF were joined by a new would-be arbitration forum going by the name of Intersponsive.
Represented by IP lawyers Paul McGrady and Brad Bertoglio, the new company claimed it would be able to hit the price target due to software and process efficiencies.
NAF also said it would be able to hit targets for most URS cases, but pointed out that the poorly-described policy would create complex edge cases that would be more expensive to handle.
WIPO, for its part, said a cheaper URS would only be possible if registrants automatically lost the cases if they failed to respond to complaints.
This angered big domainers represented by the Internet Commerce Association and free speech advocates in the GNSO, who feared a simpler URS meant fewer registrant rights.
It’s not yet known which vendors are in with a shot of winning the URS contract, but if ICANN has found a reasonably priced provider, that would be pretty good news for registrants and IP owners.
ICANN has issued an open call for dispute resolution providers interested in running its Uniform Rapid Suspension system.
In a request for information published last night, ICANN says it expects to pick a provider or providers by February 28, 2013.
If you’re not already running a dispute resolution service at scale there seems to be little point in applying. The RFI states that respondents must, at a minimum:
Have a track record in competently handling clerical aspects of Alternative Dispute Resolution or UDRP proceedings
Have a team of globally diverse and highly qualified neutrals, with experience handling UDRP or similar complaints, to serve as panelists.
With that in mind, will the RFI help sort out the problems with the URS?
What ICANN needs right now is a provider happy to administer proceedings for $300 to $500 per case.
ICANN has already asked WIPO and the National Arbitration Forum for their pricing expectations and neither apparently thinks they can do it much cheaper than UDRP. Hence the RFI.
Could the Czech Arbitration Court be in with a shot?
CAC already has UDRP experience and a stable of trademark experts on hand, and some say its level of automation is superior to — and presumably more cost-efficient than — both WIPO and NAF.
If UDRP forum shopping is a real phenomenon, the market share statistics don’t bear it out.
The National Arbitration Forum today announced a sequential decrease in the number of cybersquatting cases it handled in 2011, widening the gap between itself and the World Intellectual Property Organization for at least the second year in a row.
NAF said it handled 2,082 complaints last year, down 4% from 2010. That’s over the same period WIPO saw a 2.5% increase to 2,764 cases.
NAF is occasionally accused of being the more complainant-friendly of the two major UDRP dispute resolution providers, which some say encourages “forum shopping”.
While that may or may not be true in certain fringe cases, it’s certainly not helping NAF win a flood of business. WIPO is still handling more cases, and growing its share while NAF’s shrinks.
As Mike Berkens observed over on The Domains, NAF’s press release attempted a bit of lame spinning, comparing 2011 to 2009 in order to lead with an 18% increase stat.
The release also includes the following quote from director of internet and IP services Kristine Dorrain, which seems to be designed to subtly address the “complainant-friendly” allegations.
Our experience tells us parties, particularly domain name registrants, prefer the National Arbitration Forum because documents are easily accessible in our online portal. Complaint or Response filing is accomplished in just a couple of minutes.
It’s a somewhat irrelevant statement, given that it’s the complainant who gets to choose the venue.
One of NAF’s 2011 highlights was being picked as exclusive provider of Rapid Evaluation Service cases by .xxx manager ICM Registry. It processed 10 RES complaints in 2011.
RES cases, as well as 73 .us cases, were counted in its headline statistics.