The Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP) was adopted by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) to set forth the rules regarding domain name disputes. The UDRP has been accepted by all ICANN-accredited registrars and is now incorporated into the Registrar Agreements of said accredited registrars.

The UDRP is a tool designed to protect trademark owners from cybersquatters—those who register and use domain names incorporating trademarks owned by others in a bad faith attempt to profit off of the trademarks. If a trademark owner encounters a cybersquatter, the trademark owner may file a UDRP complaint in an attempt to have the domain name registration transferred or canceled.

To prevail in a UDRP proceeding, the trademark owner (complainant) must prove:

  • (i) “[the] domain name is identical or confusingly similar to a trademark or service mark in which the complainant has rights; and
  • (ii) [the domain name holder] ha[s] no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the domain name; and
  • (iii) [the] domain name has been registered and is being used in bad faith.”

See Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy, Paragraph 4(a). Typically, a UDRP proceeding will last about 60 days. The following is an exemplary timeline of the adjudication process:

Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy Timeline
Timeline for Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy

Unfortunately, this tool is sometimes abused by trademark owners in what is called “reverse domain name hijacking” (RDNH). RDNH occurs when a trademark owner attempts to bully a legitimate domain name registrant out of his/her domain name by making illegitimate cybersquatting claims. Strangely, the UDRP lacks a penalty for perpetrators of RDNH. As a result, unethical, large corporations have the ability to bully smaller businesses and individuals into selling their domain names for minimal value or spending a significant sum in legal fees to defend their legitimate domain name registrations. The attorneys at Smith & Hopen are well experienced in UDRP proceedings and will zealously advocate on the behalf of legitimate domain name registrants and victims of cybersquatting.