Is the URS Dying?

The much-maligned Uniform Rapid Suspension System (URS) is not only failing to catch on -- it's actually starting to fade. Once envisioned as a popular rights-protection mechanism for trademark owners under the new generic top-level domain names (gTLDs), the URS instead is seldom used. In fact, despite the growth in new gTLD registrations, the URS is in decline.

As the chart above clearly shows, the number of URS complaints filed at the Forum (formerly the National Arbitration Forum) -- the most popular URS service provider -- dropped 13% last year, from 242 complaints in 2014 to 211 complaints in 2015. (The total number of disputed domain names in those URS complaints effectively remained unchanged, from 258 to 257.)

At the Asian Domain Name Dispute Resolution Centre, the story is even more dramatic, with only 7 URS complaints decided in 2015 -- a 59% dip from the 17 URS determinations in 2014.

And, when you consider that the total number of domain names registered under the new gTLDs actually increased 200% from the end of 2014 to the end of 2015, the decline in URS activity is especially significant. Said another way: In 2014, one in every 14,326 new gTLD registrations was subject to a URS complaint, but in 2015 the ratio dropped to only one in 51,378.

While it might be tempting to think that the paltry number of URS complaints being filed is an indication that cybersquatting is becoming less rampant, the overall number of domain name disputes tells a different story, given the 4.5% spike in cases at WIPO and a 23.9% increase in the total number of disputed domain names at the Forum last year.

So, why is the URS so unpopular?

As I've written before, the reasons are many:

  • The URS is still a relatively new dispute policy and, therefore, is not nearly as well-known as the Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP).  (Indeed, WIPO -- the largest provider of all domain name dispute services -- does not accept URS cases.)
  • The URS only allows a trademark owner to temporarily suspend a domain name (whereas the UDRP allows a trademark owner to obtain a transfer of the domain name) and, therefore, is often a less attractive option.
  • The URS has a high burden of proof, which, combined with the strict word limit and lack of much precedent, can make it challenging for a trademark owner to prevail. (Indeed, the URS itself makes clear that it is "not intended for use in any proceedings with open questions of fact, but only clear cases of trademark abuse.")
  • Despite the increase in the number of new gTLD registrations, new gTLDs in general are not popular with the public overall -- so trademark owners may consider cybersquatting in the new gTLDs a threat not always worth pursuing.

Still, the URS is a good option for trademark owners under certain circumstances, but if the current trend is any indication, the UDRP will remain the preferred domain name dispute policy.