The latest meeting to hammer out plans for the future of the internet domain names was held in Geneva, Switzerland at the start of this week under the auspices of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). It has become apparent that the most contentious issue facing plans put forward by the interim Policy Oversight Committee […]
The latest meeting to hammer out plans for the future of the internet domain names was held in Geneva, Switzerland at the start of this week under the auspices of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). It has become apparent that the most contentious issue facing plans put forward by the interim Policy Oversight Committee (iPOC) for the establishment of seven new generic top-level domain names (gTLDs) is that of resolving disputes resulting from conflicting domain names and where domain names encroach on trademark, which is perhaps the thorniest issue of all. The process for resolving disputes in the iPOC plan centers around something called Administrative Challenge Panels, or ACPs. It involves three possible stages: mediation, binding arbitration or finally, settlement in court. The ACPs have the right to suspend domain names when a dispute arises. The purpose of giving the ACPs such power is to avoid costly court proceedings, but of course it will only work if all powers agree to submit to their authority, which many do not seem ready to do right now. We spoke to the chair of the Geneva meeting, US Department of Commerce Patent & Trademark attorney Lynne Beresford, but she was in the process of writing her meeting report, which should be ready some time today or early next week at the latest. She said that along with ACPs the other main topics of discussion were jurisdictions and trademark law. But some of the other participants made it clear that there is still a long way to go before the iPOC plan and seven new names can be implemented. The main area of contention is, unsurprisingly, the ACP’s ability to suspend domain names. The length of time the suspensions would last is not yet clear and highly contentious given the likelihood of frivolous claims resulting in unnecessary suspensions. However, the consensus among supporters of the plan was for about 30 days. The Domain Names Rights Coalition claimed such a practice was the opposite of trademark law, where it is up to the party seeking the injunction against the incumbent to get the suspension, compared to the ACP guideline, which puts the onus on the existing holder of the domain name to prove why it should be reinstated. Also, the arbitration part of the ACP process appears to fall foul of at least German and Belgian law, but as participants would have already signed a contract to participate in the process it is difficult to see how they can refuse to abide with the decisions of the ACPs and remain within the system. The ACPs were introduced in place of a much- criticized 60-day wait period whereby objectors to a new domain name would have 60 days from its inception to speak up or lose their chance. There is likely to more coming out of the Geneva meeting and an iPOC meeting in New York this week.