ICANN picks first URS provider


US-based the National Arbitration Forum (NAF) has been picked as the first manager of the Uniform Rapid Suspension System (URS) in the new generic top-level domain (gTLD) space.

The URS is a dispute-resolution system designed to resolve clear-cut cases of cybersquatting more quickly and cheaply than the current Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP).

On Wednesday, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) said the NAF had submitted an “outstanding” bid, meeting all requirements of the application process.

“The company [NAF] has a proven track record boasting resolution of over 19,000 claims in 12+ years of administering UDRP cases. Additionally, FORUM [NAF] has already developed, and is currently operating a TLD-specific rapid relief system [for adult domain .xxx]”, ICANN said in a statement.

ICANN asked prospective arbitrators in September last year to apply to manage the URS, stating that each case should cost between $300 and $500. The UDRP typically costs $1,500.

It is unclear how many applications ICANN received, but the World Intellectual Property Organization, the leading UDRP provider, previously confirmed to WIPR that it had not applied.

ICANN confirmed on Wednesday that the NAF will be one of multiple URS providers, adding: “The process will be similar to that of appointing UDRP providers in which consideration is given to achieving competitive provisioning and geographical spread of providers.”

The URS will operate alongside the UDRP but has been designed as a cheaper and faster alternative, given that rights owners are worried about increased cybersquatting with more than 1,400 new gTLDs going live this year.

Stéphane Van Gelder, chairman of Stéphane Van Gelder Consulting and formerly of Group NBT, said it was reassuring that ICANN had finally picked a URS provider.

“Along with the Trademark Clearinghouse, the URS is part of the set of rights protection mechanisms specifically developed for new gTLDs. The brief for these systems is an ambitious one, made clear by the intense negotiations around what protections the Clearinghouse should provide. It's also been made evident by the problems ICANN encountered in finding someone capable of managing the URS at the intended price point.”

He added: “The NAF is a seasoned UDRP provider, so it obviously has the experience to handle the URS. The fact that a player with extensive knowledge of domain name dispute resolution has agreed to take on URS service provision should be reassuring to rights owners."

Petter Rindforth, partner at Fenix Legal in Sweden, said the appointment was a “good decision and good start”, as the “NAF is known for handling disputes in a fast and legally safe way”.

Earlier this week, ICANN chief executive Fadi Chehadé said he was targeting April 23, 2013 as the “recommended” date for launching the first new gTLDs.

Following Chehadé’s announcement, it emerged that five branded gTLD bids had been withdrawn. Three of these – .gmc, .chevrolet and .cadillac – belong to car-manufacturer General Motors, with the remaining applications – .transformers and .thehartford – filed by Hasbro and Hartford Fire Insurance, respectively.

Until ICANN publishes the initial evaluation results, expected to be late March, applicants withdrawing their bids qualify for a 70 percent refund ($130,000) of the $185,000 application fee. After results are posted, the refund is 50 percent. 

This article was first published on 21 February 2013 in World IP Review

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