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Will URS really be as cheap as ICANN says?

Kevin Murphy, September 29, 2011, 09:35:28 (UTC), Domain Policy

I’m having a hard time believing that trademark holders will be able to enforce their rights in new top-level domains for just $300.
The Uniform Rapid Suspension policy (pdf) is one of the new systems ICANN is putting in place to deter cybersquatters from abusing trademarks in new gTLDs.
It’s very similar to the existing UDRP, but it’s quicker and it only deals with the suspension – not transfer – of infringing domain names.
No URS arbitration provider has yet been appointed, but ICANN’s Applicant Guidebook, which spells out the policy, currently estimates a price of $300 per single-domain filing.
At least twice during the conference in Munich this week I heard ICANN representatives quote a price between $300 and $500.
I’m wondering how realistic this is.
Typically, domain arbitration fees are split between the provider, which receives a third, and the panelist, who receives the remaining two thirds.
With a $300 fee, that’s $100 to the provider and $200 to the sole panelist – who must be an experienced trademark lawyer or similar – compared to a $500/$1,000 split with the UDRP.
My question is: how many trademark lawyers will get out of bed for $200?
The URS gives panelists between three and five days to come up with a decision, but I’m guessing that you’d be lucky, for $200, to buy three to five hours of a panelist’s time.
Even I charge more than $200 for half a day’s work.
The Rapid Evaluation Service recently introduced by ICM Registry, which serves essentially the same purpose as URS but for the .xxx gTLD, costs $1,300 in National Arbitration Forum fees.
Like URS, the RES is designed for a speedy turnaround – just three days for a preliminary evaluation – of clear-cut cybersquatting cases.
Like URS, complaints submitted using RES have a tight word-count limit, to minimize the amount of work panelists have to do.
With that in mind, it seems to me that a $300 fee for URS may be unrealistic. Even the $500 upper-end ICANN estimate may be optimistic.
It will be interesting to see if ICANN’s negotiating clout with likely URS providers is better than ICM’s and, more importantly, to see whether $200 is enough to buy consistent, reliable decisions from panelists.

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Comments (2)

  1. Philip Corwin says:

    I was told in Singapore by an existing UDRP provider that they wouldn’t even bid to do URS at this pricing — because the average IP attorney charges $650 an hour, so $300 doesn’t even cover hallf an hour of their time much less leave anything over for administrative expenses.
    The whole notion of suspending a domain through a $300 proceeding and a 500 word complaint is highly questioinable, no matter what ICANN promised to TM owners.

  2. Mike Hails says:

    The problem with the UDRP and indeed this planned URS is that although someone in Thailand may have a trade mark in Thailand for say banking ,under trade mark laws that mark is only valid for Thailand juridisdiction. The trouble is if someone in say USA has a domain name which is the same as that mark the guy in Thailand can potentially take that domain from you. What I say is that it is grossly unfair that a complainant may make a complaint using that Trade Mark YET the respondent cannot reply to that same complaint by averring that under trade mark laws the domain name does not violate it. That is a big and unfair hole in the UDRP/URFS system.

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