The URS Gets Real: ICANN Picks NAF

In an important announcement for trademark rights and the new gTLDs, ICANN announced that it has appointed the National Arbitration Forum (NAF) as the first service provider for the forthcoming Uniform Rapid Suspension System (URS). NAF already provides services for the Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP) and has handled other domain dispute programs, so it should be well-equipped to deal with a flood of new complaints that surely will arise as the new gTLDs go live.

The URS, a potentially quicker and less-expensive alternative to the UDRP (but with limited remedies), has been criticized by trademark owners and domainers alike for a variety of reasons. But the biggest obstacle seemingly has been identifying a service provider that could meet ICANN's targeted filing fee of $300 to $500 per complaint, a challenge that ICANN acknowledged when the new gTLD applications were revealed in June 2012 and again later in the year.

Apparently, NAF intends to meet the targeted filing fee: ICANN said that NAF has "demonstrat[ed] how it would meet all requirements presented in the RFI" -- a document that set forth the $300 to $500 filing fee. However, the Memorandum of Understanding between ICANN and NAF says only that NAF will "provide URS services on a reasonable and cost effective basis," without setting a specific dollar figure.

Although the ultimate filing fee set by NAF will partly determine the popularity of the URS, at least it's finally clear that, like it or not, trademark owners soon will have a new domain name dispute policy at their disposal.

Disclosure: I am a panelist for the NAF.