Filing a complaint under the Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP) is widely accepted as a much less expensive (and quicker) legal route to recover a domain name than filing a complaint in court. Still, the UDRP is not free. In addition to legal fees, a trademark owner who files a UDRP complaint must pay a filing fee to the dispute resolution service provider. The leading UDRP service providers -- the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and the Forum (formerly the National Arbitration Forum) -- charge filing fees that start at $1,500 and $1,300, respectively. Although WIPO and the Forum handle the overwhelming majority of all UDRP complaints, they're not the only options. While the fees at the Asian Domain Name Dispute Resolution Centre (ADNDRC) also start at $1,300, the Czech Arbitration Court (CAC) has a fee schedule that begins at only $500.
Yes, that's right. You can file a UDRP complaint at CAC for only $500.
The UDRP policy and rules are exactly the same at CAC as they are at WIPO, NAF and ADNDRC. So, the outcome for a winning complainant is also the same: transfer of the disputed domain name (if that is what the complainant chooses).
But, CAC is not well-known. Indeed, a new and detailed book about the UDRP, "Domain Name Arbitration" by Gerald M. Levine, only mentions CAC once -- in a footnote -- in its 530 pages. And many, if not most, trademark owners have never heard of or at least don't consider CAC when filing a UDRP complaint.
So, what's the catch?
Behind CAC's $500 UDRP Filing Fee
To be clear, while CAC's UDRP fees start at $500 (for a complaint involving 1-5 domain names, with a single-member panel), an additional $800 fee will be imposed if the domain name registrant files a response or if the panel requires it "having regard to the complexity of the proceeding."
In other words, CAC's filing fees in any given case may turn out to be comparable to those charged by WIPO, the Forum and ADNDRC.
Still, even if an additional fee is not imposed in a UDRP proceeding at CAC, a trademark owner should consider the following issues before jumping at a lower price:
- Unlike WIPO, CAC does not publish a well-regarded and frequently cited "Overview" of important UDRP questions.
- CAC requires complainants to file via an online complaint form. While some may find this helpful, others may see it as unfamiliar and restrictive.
- CAC has published fewer than 400 UDRP decisions. By contrast, WIPO has handled more than 30,000 domain name disputes, and the Forum's database includes nearly 21,000 UDRP decisions. As a result, there is relatively little CAC precedent to cite in CAC complaints (although UDRP decisions at other providers should be persuasive), and the CAC staff and panelists may be less experienced (although, like myself, there is overlap among panelists at the various dispute providers).
- UDRP decisions at CAC seem to be less detailed than at WIPO and the Forum, which makes it less helpful to cite them.
- There are only 39 panelists at CAC (as opposed to more than 450 at WIPO and 136 at the Forum). Therefore, among other things, CAC panelists are presumably unable to handle complaints in as many languages as at WIPO and the Forum.
- Given CAC's relatively recent (2008) approval as a UDRP service provider and its much smaller caseload, it is unclear how complicated issues that sometimes arise during the course of a UDRP proceeding -- such as cyberflight and enforcement -- are handled.
Of course, many UDRP proceedings are straightforward and don't elicit a response from the domain name registrant. So, for many trademark owners, CAC's lower initial filing fee may be a very attractive alternative that relatively few have considered.