Why 'Locking' a Domain Name is Important to the UDRP Process

By Doug Isenberg ICANN is seeking comments on a topic titled "Locking of a Domain Name Subject to UDRP Proceedings."

As the comment announcement states:

[T]here currently is no requirement to lock a domain name in the period between the filing of a complaint and the commencement of proceedings. In addition, it is unclear what is meant with 'status quo' as used in the UDRP.

This is an important issue for UDRP proceedings. Here's why:

  • UDRP Policy para. 7 requires that a UDRP service provider "not cancel, transfer, activate, deactivate, or otherwise change the status of any domain name registration" until a UDRP proceeding has been concluded.
  • As a result, UDRP service providers commonly "lock" a disputed domain name after a complaint has been filed -- but, this lock typically does not take effect until the service provider has verified certain details about the disputed domain name with the registrar, officially "commencing" the UDRP proceeding. Sometimes, this results in a delay of a few days.
  • Because of the delay between the date on which a UDRP complaint is filed and the date on which the service provider commences the proceeding, a domain name can be transferred before the proceeding truly begins in earnest.

When a pre-commencement transfer occurs, a complainant often must amend its complaint, sometimes substantially, to take into account the identity of the new registrant, creating delays, expenses and frustrations.

As WIPO said in a letter to ICANN more than four years ago, this type of "cyberflight" "may cause complications, and thus delays." WIPO recommended then that a registrar be required to lock a domain name "at the earliest possible stage of a procedure."

WIPO's previously articulated position should be non-controversial and, if adopted, would only penalize registrants (and registrars) that engage in actions that undermine the effectiveness of the UDRP.

ICANN is accepting comments on this issue until August 15, 2012.