The Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP) was designed as a quicker and less-expensive alternative to litigation. Although the UDRP policy and rules provide strict timelines for various stages of a UDRP case, how quickly a dispute is actually resolved can vary based on numerous factors. A typical UDRP case results in a decision in about two months, but the facts of each case -- including actions both within and outside the control of the parties -- may shorten or extend that timing.
Here's how a common UDRP case proceeds:
Step 1 (Filing of Complaint):
A trademark owner has discretion to file a UDRP complaint at any time. While some panels have considered a "doctrine of laches," the WIPO Overview notes that "delay (by reference to the time of the relevant registration of the disputed domain name) in bringing a complaint does not of itself prevent a complainant from filing under the UDRP, or from being able to succeed under the UDRP, where a complainant can establish a case on the merits under the requisite three elements."
Step 2 (Compliance check):
The UDRP service provider (WIPO, the Forum, the Czech Arbitration Court and the Asian Domain Name Dispute Resolution Centre) acknowledges receipt of a complaint within about one day of filing; submits a "verification request" to the registrar to confirm the accuracy of information about the domain name and the registrant; and reviews the complaint for "administrative compliance" with the UDRP policy and rules. Rules, paragraph 4(b). If the provider finds the complaint "administratively deficient," it "shall promptly notify the Complainant and the Respondent of the nature of the deficiencies identified." Rules, paragraph 4(d). The complainant will then have five calendar days to correct any deficiencies. If the disputed domain name was protected by a privacy service and the underlying registrant's identity disclosed after filing, the provider may invite the complainant to amend the complaint within the same five-day time period allowed for curing deficiencies.
Step 3 (Commencement):
Within three calendar days of the provider's receipt of the filing fee from the complainant, the provider "shall forward the complaint, including any annexes, electronically to the Respondent and Registrar and shall send Written Notice of the complaint (together with the explanatory cover sheet prescribed by the Provider's Supplemental Rules) to the Respondent." Rules, paragraph 4(c). This is commonly referred to as "commencement."
Step 4 (Filing of Response):
A respondent is required to submit its response within 20 days of commencement. Rules, paragraph 5(a). (Many respondents choose not to submit a response -- but, failure to do so does not automatically result in a decision in favor of the complainant, because there is no default judgment available under the UDRP.) A respondent is automatically entitled to a four-day extension upon request. Rules, paragraph 5(b). And, "in exceptional cases," the service provider may grant additional extensions. Rules, paragraph 5(e).
Step 5 (Panel appointment):
The service provider is required to appoint a panel within five calendar days of receiving a response (if one is filed) or the deadline for a response (if one is not filed), if neither party has requested a three-member panel. Rules, paragraph 6(b). If a three-member panel is required, then the deadline for appointment may take 10 calendar days. Rules, paragraphs 6(c)-(e).
Step 6 (Decision):
The panel is required to ensure that a UDRP proceeding "takes place with due expedition," Rules, paragraph 10(c), and, unless there are "exceptional circumstances," it "shall forward its decision on the complaint to the Provider within fourteen (14) days of its appointment." Rules, paragraph 15(b). However, "exceptional circumstances" (which are not typically explained to the parties) are not uncommon. The provider is then required to notify the parties of the decision within three business days. Rules, paragraph 16(a).
Step 7 (Implementation):
If the panel's decision is an order to transfer the disputed domain name to the complainant, then the registrar is required to implement the decision after 10 business days. Policy, paragraph 4(k). In the rare event that a losing registrant notifies the registrar during the waiting period that it has "commenced a lawsuit against the complainant in a jurisdiction to which the complainant has submitted" under the Rules, then the registrar will not implement the decision unless it receives evidence of "a resolution between the parties"; evidence that the "lawsuit has been dismissed or withdrawn"; or a court order dismissing the lawsuit or ordering that the registrant "do[es] not have the right to continue to use" the disputed domain name.
While all of the UDRP service providers must abide by the same deadlines set forth in the UDRP policy and rules described above, their supplemental rules and practices may result in slightly different timing over the course of a proceeding.
Plus, there are many factors that can alter the timing of a UDRP proceeding, such as supplemental filings from the parties, challenges in appointing panels, complicated cases (including, sometimes, disputes with a large number of domain names), panel orders and panel delays. Also, if the parties want to pursue a settlement, a case may be resolved without a decision -- sometimes as soon as shortly after the filing of a complaint, sometimes longer than a decision would have taken.