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February 13, 2020

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Here's the The Lowdown from DN Journal,
updated daily
to fill you in on the latest buzz going around the domain name industry. 

The Lowdown is compiled by DN Journal Editor & Publisher Ron Jackson.

Is the Tide Turning for Domain Investors on the UDRP Front? New Data Uncovered by Attorney Howard Neu is Promising

In the course of my reading this week I came across an article by veteran domain attorney Howard Neu posted on his NeusNews.com blog that was quite surprising. It unveiled an encouraging trend that bears watching in the months ahead. Before getting into the specifics, for those not familiar with the UDRP, some brief background may be helpful.

As a domain industry attorney, Howard frequently handles UDRP cases and writes about developments related to ICANN's Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP). That's the arbitration system that resolves disputes that arise when a

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trademark owner claims someone's ownership of a particular domain name infringes on their rights.

If a UDRP complaint is upheld by the arbitration panel, the domain gets transferred to the complainant. If they lose, the name stays with the current owner (the respondent) but  even if the respondent wins the battle they typically lose several thousand dollars in legal expenses from having to defend their property (often from a party who had no legitimate claim to the name in the first place). There is no financial penalty for filing a frivolous UDRP complaint against someone (only the risk of losing your own legal fees). Worst case scenario is the offender is ruled guilty of a reverse domain name hijacking attempt and essentially told to "go and sin no more."

Attorney Howard Neu

Of course, this emboldens others to try their luck at using the system to steal valuable domain names. UDRP panelists are just as responsible for stopping that from happening as they are for stopping the bad actors who register domains for the purpose of infringing on and profiting from famous marks. 

Over the nearly 20 years I have been in this business, the feeling among the vast majority of domain investors has been that the deck has been stacked against them, as they wound up on the losing end of far more UDRP decisions than they won, something that the statistics bore out. That's why the new stats in Howard's article caught my eye.

After studying nearly 200 recent cases handled by WIPO and THE FORUM (two well-known arbitration services), Howard found the odds for domain owners were evening out and even shifting in their favor at THE FORUM. Most cases that are lost are uncontested (the domain owner simply fails to respond 

because they can't afford the cost to defend the domain or the name is not worth that much to them). However, in the 30 WIPO cases that were contested (out of 171 filed) the complainants won only 17 of 30 - much closer to a 50/50 chance for respondents than we are used to seeing.  In the real shocker, at THE FORUM, where 27 cases were filed but only five contested, only one complainant won - an 80% success rate for the domain owners. Howard emphasized that this is a very limited data set at this point but he will continue to follow and report on UDRP results very closely. There is much more information in his article, including names of the arbitration panelists and how they individually ruled in these cases.

(Posted February 13, 2020) 

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