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ICANN has found a sub-$500 URS provider

Kevin Murphy, January 30, 2013, Domain Policy

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.

Deloitte confirmed as first Trademark Clearinghouse provider

Kevin Murphy, December 14, 2012, Domain Policy

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 got lucky with a URS vendor

Kevin Murphy, November 25, 2012, Domain Policy

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.

Strickling urges ICANN to bolster trademark protection for all gTLDs

Kevin Murphy, October 5, 2012, Domain Policy

US Department of Commerce assistant secretary Larry Strickling has called on ICANN to create more trademark protection mechanisms across new and existing gTLDs.

In a letter to ICANN yesterday, Strickling, head of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, also expressed concerned about the slow progress on implementing the Uniform Rapid Suspension and Trademark Clearinghouse systems.

The URS has run into a problem because no provider ICANN has approached to date wants to run it for the $300 to $500 filing fee.

Meanwhile, the way ICANN plans to implement the Clearinghouse has been hit by criticism from registries, registrars and new gTLD applicants, many of which believe it is too inflexible.

Strickling told ICANN that “it is imperative that all fees associated with the URS remain low”, and suggested that cost savings could be achieved through integration with the Clearinghouse.

But he also called for stronger trademark protections in general, above and beyond what the ICANN community has already decided to implement.

Industry stakeholders have presented a variety of suggestions to reduce the cost of defensive registrations (e.g. trademark blocking mechanisms) and others have suggested enhanced safeguards for new gTLDs targeted at creative sectors.

While not taking a position in support of any specific proposal at this time, NTIA does believes that ICANN should continue and open and transparent dialogue between all actors in order to find solutions to these issues which have come into clearer focus since the release of the 1,930 applications this past June.

The letter was sent due to NTIA’s meeting with the 30-odd so-called “brand summit” companies — almost all household names — last month.

Among other things, they want the Clearinghouse to alert them whenever somebody registers a domain name containing their trademarks, instead of just exact matches.

The counter-argument from the domain industry is that such a proposal would create millions of false positives, due to dictionary words, run-ons and acronyms.

An example recently aired by attorney John Berryhill is the Yellow Pages trademark on “YP”, which would be triggered in the Clearinghouse whenever PayPal registered its brand as a domain name.

The brand summit companies also want a blanket trademark blocking system based on ICM Registry’s .xxx Sunrise B process, under which they pay a one-off fee to block their mark in a gTLD forever.

Opponents point out that such systems may be appropriate in single TLDs, but problems could arise when applied to all TLDs. Different companies have rights to the same strings in different fields.

Strickling appears to be aware of the problems that could be caused if the trademark community gets everything it wants. In the letter, he urges mutual understanding, writing:

Whatever process ICANN follows, trademark holders should provide clear, fact-based descriptions of the challenges they encounter in the global DNS and registries and registrars should clarify issues relating to the technical feasibility and costs of implementing any additional protections.

It’s a nice idea, but attempts to reach a sane solution have so far been unsuccessful.

Melbourne IT’s HARM proposal, which would give special rights to particularly vulnerable brands, was shot down by trademark owners as too limited during a meeting in Washington DC last month.

ICANN publishes RFI for URS provider

Kevin Murphy, September 25, 2012, Domain Policy

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.