WIPO's Proposal for a 'Workable' URS

Amid an ongoing debate about the practicality and usefulness of ICANN's proposed Uniform Rapid Suspension System ("URS") for the new gTLDs, the World Intellectual Property Organization ("WIPO") has proposed a revised version of this new domain name dispute policy -- "URS 2.0" -- which it says will address many of the criticisms of URS. In a discussion paper (3-page PDF) presented at the recent ICANN meeting in Toronto, WIPO says URS 2.0 would create a "simple and cost-sustainable suspension mechanism" -- something that URS critics have said is lacking in the current model.

Among other problems with the original URS (as set forth in the Applicant Guidebook), ICANN has admitted that the "model does not meet the cost targets," as Kurt Pritz confessed in a recent webinar intended to address some of the concerns. The Guidebook suggests that the filing fee for a URS complaint would be about $300 -- although, interestingly, Pritz and others have fallen to fee creep and now often cite a figure of $500.

While the webinar explored ways to keep the fee down (including by automating or subsidizing the process), WIPO's proposal notes that the original URS "warrant[s] panel appointment in all cases" and that the fee target is "neither realistic nor optimal."

Instead, WIPO's alternative URS 2.0 model would keep costs low by creating a default suspension, without the need for a panel appointment, in cases where no response is filed. The default could be appealed by a losing registrant merely by submitting a "form-based response" (without a fee). In cases where a response is filed before default, the URS 2.0 proceeding would be dismissed, giving the complainant an opportunity pay an additional fee for an appeal or proceed to a complaint under the time-tested Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy ("UDRP") instead.

URS 2.0, WIPO says, would create a "workable balance" among competing interests and "would be the cleaner way to significantly reduce costs for the majority of URS cases, preserving important registrant safeguards, while underwriting cost sustainability of the system in the longer term."

The WIPO model doesn't solve every issue -- for example, should a cybersquatter really be able to avoid a suspension by submitting a free form at no cost; and is a suspension even an appropriate remedy? But WIPO's paper should at least renew discussion about the viability of this important new dispute mechanism rather than force the current model to work in potentially impractical ways.