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Nominet changes 'fail to cut main cost of domain name disputes'

Asserting rights still expensive, says expert

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The body in charge of the .uk internet domain has announced changes to its dispute resolution policies that will make it cheaper to win unopposed disputes but will not address the high cost of preparing cases.

Nominet has published the policy changes that have resulted from two consultations. One of the main changes allows undisputed cases to be settled in a summary judgment with a reduced fee.

"In cases where there is no response, the complainant is given the option of obtaining a summary decision from an expert, at a cost of £200," said a Nominet statement. The cost of a full judgment is £750. "The expert will not be required to write a full decision with reasoning in these cases, but only to certify that Rights and Abusive Registration have been made out by the Complainant."

The change is intended to deal with the 52 per cent of cases which are not opposed.

The proving of those rights and that a registration is abusive can be an expensive process, though, because lawyers are often involved. The cost will not be significantly reduced unless that is addressed said disputes expert David Barker of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind OUT-LAW.

"The summary judgment is a step in the right direction, but it does not deal with the main cost, which is the substantial work involved in setting out your rights and explaining that the other party doesn't have rights," Barker said. "It is advisable to get a lawyer to do this, which is what pushes the costs up."

Pinsent Masons participated in the consultation with a suggestion that summary judgments for trade mark holders be made without the need for extensive documentary submissions. Under the proposal, a claimant would provide only a trade mark number as evidence of rights in a disputed name and state that the domain name's registration was an abusive registration, without supporting evidence. If the registrant indicated an intention to defend, the claimant must then file a full claim, together with evidence.

That proposal was not adopted by Nominet, which still requires a full submission even in cases which will end up with a summary judgment.

Other changes have been made to the policy, which acts as a mediation service to save disputes always ending up in the courts. Either party can appeal Nominet expert decisions through the courts system.

The new rules will clarify that some behaviour, such as parking domain names with services which display advertising, are not necessarily abusive uses of a domain.

"We have clarified the Policy to confirm that certain activities are not in themselves an Abusive Registration, but that cases of this kind will depend on their particular facts," said Nominet.

The policy will also make clear that storing domain names for sale is not necessarily an abusive use of the addresses.

"Trading in domain names for profit, and holding a large portfolio of domain names, are of themselves lawful activities. The Expert will review each case on its merits," says the new policy. "Sale of traffic (i.e. connecting domain names to parking pages and earning click-per-view revenue) is not of itself objectionable under the Policy. However, the Expert will take into account the nature of the Domain Name; the nature of the advertising links on any parking page associated with the Domain Name; and that the use of the Domain Name is ultimately the Respondent’s responsibility."

The new policy will come into effect on 29th July.

Copyright © 2008, OUT-LAW.com

OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.

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