The companies handling Uniform Rapid Suspension domain name disputes will be bound to a contract, ICANN has said.
In a follow-up Q&A document (pdf) from the public forum session at the ICANN meeting in Beijing last month, posted Friday, ICANN said:
As regards Uniform Rapid Suspension (URS) providers, will there be a contract developed that goes beyond the non-enforceable memorandum of understanding? Will there be other URS providers?
Yes, a contract is being developed and additional URS providers will be added.
That appears to be new information.
Domainers, and the Internet Commerce Association, which represents domainers, have long pressed for UDRP providers and, more recently, URS providers, to be bound by contracts.
The ICA, for example, has often said that no new UDRP providers should be approved until there’s a contractual way for ICANN to prevent mismanagement of disputes and “forum shopping”.
Soon, it seems, at least URS providers will have some contractual coverage.
The National Arbitration Forum and the Asian Domain Name Dispute Resolution Centre have already been approved as URS providers.
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 has picked a provider for its Uniform Rapid Suspension anti-cybersquatting service, one that’s willing to manage cases at under $500 per filing.
The news came from new gTLD program manager Christine Willett during webcast meetings this week.
“We have identified a provider for the URS who’s going to be able to provide that service within the target $300 to $500 filing fee price range. We’re in the process of formalizing that relationship,” she said last night.
The name of the lucky provider has not yet been revealed — Willett expects that news to come in February — but it’s known that several vendors were interested in the gig.
URS is a complement to the existing UDRP system, designed to enable trademark owners to execute quick(ish) takedowns, rather than transfers, of infringing domain names.
ICANN found itself in a bit of a quandary last year when UDRP providers WIPO and the National Arbitration Forum said they doubted it could be done for the target fee without compromising registrant rights.
But a subsequent RFP — demanded by members of the community — revealed several providers willing to hit the sub-$500 target.
ICANN expects to approve multiple URS vendors over time.
ICANN has signed a contract with Deloitte, making the company the first official trademark validation agent for the forthcoming new gTLDs Trademark Clearinghouse.
The news emerged in a blog post from ICANN CEO Fadi Chehade today.
The TMCH is going to use the registry-registrar model, with IBM acting as the centralized, sole-source database operator, and Deloitte acting as the first “registrar”.
Marks entered into the TMCH will be eligible for Trademark Claims notifications and, in cases where proof of use has been provided, Sunrise registrations.
Chehade confirmed that Deloitte can charge a maximum of $150 per trademark per year, with discounts available for multiple marks and multiple years.
IBM’s contract and associated fees have not yet been set, due largely to the fact that the TMCH implementation model is still the subject of debate and controversy.
ICANN has confirmed, however, that it will retain “all intellectual property rights” to data stored in the Clearinghouse, meaning it may be able to migrate the database to a different provider in future.
Chehade also confirmed that ICANN has received “multiple” responses to its Request For Information for a Uniform Rapid Suspension service provider that come in under its $500-per-case price target.
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.