Why the URS is (So Far) an Unpopular Domain Name Dispute Policy

The Uniform Rapid Suspension System (URS), originally heralded as an important dispute policy for new global top-level domains (gTLDs), is attracting only minimal interest from trademark owners.

Nearly 16 months after the first URS decision was published for a new gTLD, the National Arbitration Forum (NAF) -- the leading URS service provider -- reports that only 300 cases have been filed. That's fewer than 19 cases per month. By comparison, the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) -- the leading provider of services for the well-established Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP) -- reported 2,634 cases last year, or nearly 200 per month.

Granted, comparing the 16-year-old UDRP with the new URS is not entirely appropriate. (Although, interestingly, WIPO reported 1,857 domain name dispute cases in 2000, the first full year of the UDRP.) Plus, the number of new gTLD registrations is only a fraction of the number of .com and other established TLDs to which the UDRP applies.

In other words, fewer domain names are subject to the URS, and the policy itself is very young.

Still, there are many reasons why the URS is unpopular, including:

  • The URS is not well-known outside of the community that follows domain name disputes closely.
  • The URS is not the only dispute policy that applies to new gTLDs. Trademark owners who prefer arbitration can choose the URS or the UDRP.
  • The URS remedy -- temporary suspension of a domain name -- is often less attractive to trademark owners than the transfer remedy available under the UDRP.
  • Some early URS decisions favored domain name registrants, which mistakenly left some trademark owners with the impression that the URS was not an attractive option. In reality, as in any legal dispute, the facts of every case are obviously essential.
  • Many URS decisions offer trademark owners little guidance about the dispute policy, because they (by design) contain minimal (or sometimes no) legal analysis.
  • Unlike the UDRP, the URS does not typically apply to common-law trademarks.
  • The 500-word limit for URS complaints makes it difficult to establish a strong case.
  • The "clear and convincing evidence" burden of proof requirement set forth in the URS is a very high hurdle for trademark owners to meet.
  • Unlike the UDRP, supplemental filings are not permitted in URS proceedings.
  • The URS time periods and appeals process make the policy much less efficient than originally envisioned.

Of course, the URS offers some advantages over the UDRP (chiefly, a much lower filing fee) and always should be considered seriously by any trademark owner in appropriate cases. Plus, as the number of new gTLD registrations grows, it may become more popular. Until then, the UDRP remains the clear choice for trademark owners seeking to dispute a domain name registration.