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How Long Does a URS Case Take?

Doug Isenberg

The Uniform Rapid Suspension System (URS) — which allows a trademark owner to suspend certain domain names, especially those in the "new" gTLDs — was designed as a quicker and less-expensive alternative to the Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP). As I've written frequently before, there are significant differences between the URS and the UDRP. One of those differences is how long a typical proceeding lasts.

Like the UDRP, the URS procedure and rules provide strict timelines for various stages of a case. But, unlike the UDRP, URS cases are usually resolved much more quickly — often in less than three weeks (although reviews and appeals may prolong the life of a URS proceeding).

Here's how a common URS case proceeds:

Step 1 (Filing of Complaint):

As with a UDRP complaint, a trademark owner has discretion in deciding when it wants to file a URS complaint. Nothing in the URS procedure or rules requires that a complaint be filed within a specified period of time, and — to my knowledge as of the date of this writing — no URS decision has addressed the issue of laches, that is, whether a URS complaint would be barred by an undue lapse of time between the trademark owner's discovery of the disputed domain name and the date on which it files a complaint.

Step 2 (Administrative Review):

The URS procedure requires that a dispute service provider conduct an "Administrative Review" within two business days of the date on which the complaint was submitted to the provider. (Currently, there are three URS service providers: the Forum, the Asian Domain Name Dispute Resolution Centre and MFSD.) The procedure makes clear that this review is simply "to determine that the Complaint contains all of the necessary information."

Step 3 (Notice and Locking of Domain):

The URS service provider must immediately notify the registry operator after the service provider has completed the administrative review, and the registry operator is required to lock the disputed domain name within 24 hours. Then, within another 24 hours, the service provider must notify the registrant of the disputed domain name of the complaint, providing both electronic and hard copy notices.

Step 4 (Response):

A registrant has 14 days after notification to submit a response to a URS complaint. The URS provider may grant "a limited extension of time to respond" if there is a good faith basis for doing so." If the registrant does not submit a response, the proceeding is considered to be a "Default," which is relevant for purposes of a later possible "de novo review" or appeal (see below) and does not automatically result in a determination in favor of the complainant.

Step 5 (Determination):

Although supplemental filings are not uncommon in UDRP cases, a URS examiner "may not request further statements or documents from either of the Parties," and — to my knowledge as of the date of this writing — no URS examiner has considered a supplemental filing from any party, because doing so would complicate and delay what is supposed to be a simple and rapid process.

The examiner appointed to decide a URS case (and all URS cases have only a single examiner) is expected to issue his or her determination "on an expedited basis, with the stated goal that it be rendered within three (3) Business Days from when Examination began." Under "extraordinary circumstances," an examiner may not issue a determination until five days after the response was filed. If the determination was an order to suspend the disputed domain name, the the registry operator is required to do so "[i]mmediately upon receipt of the Determination" from the URS service provider.

Complications:

The process outlined above may seem very straightforward and quick — and, in most cases, it is — but the URS provides multiple opportunities to extend the course of a URS proceeding. For example, among other things, a losing domain name registrant that did not submit a response during the 14-day period may "seek relief from Default via de novo review by filing a Response at any time up to six months after the date of the Notice of Default" — and is even "entitled to request an extension of an additional six months if the extension is requested before the expiration of the initial six-month period." Plus, either party can file an appeal within 14 days of a default or final determination.

In addition, a settlement could shorten or lengthen the course of a URS proceeding. For example, the Forum's supplemental rules allow the parties to "jointly request a stay for a one-time period of forty-five Calendar Days."

By Doug Isenberg, Attorney & Founder of The GigaLaw Firm. Learn more by visiting The GigaLaw Firm website. Doug Isenberg also maintains a blog here.

Related topics: Cybersquatting, Domain Names, Intellectual Property, Law, Top-Level Domains, UDRP

 
   

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