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Why WIPO Does Not Like the UDRP

The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO)—the same organization whose head recently equated intellectual property infringement with terrorism—has been pressing ICANN to add domain name monopolies on the names of countries, and the names and acronyms of inter-governmental organizations, into the Uniform Domain Name Dispute-Resolution Policy (UDRP). Despite the fact that no-one but WIPO seems to want these new exclusions, a working group has nonetheless been convened to study their recommendations. This leads to an almost complete divergence of views on the mandate of this group: some feel it should proceed forthwith to proposing implementation of these exclusions by amendment to the UDRP; others feel the recommendation is at odds with ICANN’s mandate, and we should document the lack of consensus and move away.

WIPO doesn’t like the UDRP as it stands, because its claimants must subject themselves to the jurisdiction of national courts. International Government Organizations (IGOs) would prefer international arbitration, where not only can they keep their sovereign immunity, but the procedural and substantive rules differ. But the possibility of appeal to national courts is no minor detail, but part of the balance keeping domain name disputes in check. If UDRP arbitrators, or the ICANN “consensus” veer too far from national laws, they can be corrected by courts.

Rather than demanding the public’s exclusion from a range of names and acronyms (think bone china, india ink, and WHO, for starters, not to mention the jokers at GATT.org), countries and IGOs could use names that are unambiguously theirs—the .int top-level domain, and as many names as they want in their own country-code top-level domains (ccTLDs. Let these few use unique TLDs as a sort of seal of authenticity, rather than limiting the speech opportunities of people using all the rest.

By Wendy Seltzer, Law professor

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George Kirikos  –  Dec 5, 2003 9:39 PM

Well said, Wendy. Their modifications of UDRP would amount to expropriation without compensation.

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