Win a New gTLD Objection, Get Your Money Back (Some Restrictions Apply)

By Doug Isenberg refundThe most popular process for resolving domain name disputes, the UDRP, operates like much of the U.S. legal system: Even if you win, you still have to pay for your own legal fees and expenses. But the formal objection process applicable to the new gTLDs operates on a very different system, where the prevailing party will be able to recover a substantial portion of its expenses.

As presenters from the dispute resolution service providers (DRSPs) reiterated at an ICANN webinar on the objection process, a winning objector or applicant will be entitled to a partial refund.

Specifically, the Applicant Guidebook clearly states (subsection 3.4.7):

After the hearing has taken place and the panel renders its expert determination, the DRSP will refund the advance payment of costs to the prevailing party.

This is applicable to all four types of objections: string confusion, legal rights, limited public interest and community.

Given that the costs associated with filing a complaint can be quite high, this refund is not insignificant. For example, WIPO's expert fee for a legal rights objection is $8,000, while the International Chamber of Commerce's International Centre for Expertise estimates that a three-member expert panel will cost 17,000 euros, or almost US$23,000.

Still, a number of important financial considerations remain. Among them:

  • Each objection requires the parties to pay a filing fee (in addition to costs), which is not refundable.
  • Each party must pay the DRSP's costs in advance, so even the party that ultimately prevails will be "out of pocket" for some period of time.
  • Each party must bear its own legal fees.
  • It's unclear how refunds will be handled in the event of a settlement or withdrawal (although, presumably, how to apportion whatever costs are actually refunded could be negotiated between the objector and applicant).

All of these financial issues should be weighed as the objection filing deadline (March 13, 2013) approaches.