The Uniform Rapid Suspension System (URS) was designed exclusively to provide trademark owners with a quick and a low-cost process to take down websites infringing on their intellectual property rights. The URS was proposed by the trademark groups within ICANN in an endeavor to cut back the large number of trademark infringements, including cybersquatting.
It was revealed in the budget for the 2013 fiscal year that ICANN plans to allocate $175,000 in order to host two summit sessions in order to bridge the gap between what the URS protection is supposed to provide and the $300-500 per filing fee it has promised to the intellectual property community. They plan to redesign URS to arrive at a lower cost model.
According to ICANN Vice President Bruce Tonkin, if groups pushing for stronger new gTLD trademark protection mechanisms could identify five areas of consensus, at least two could be made before new gTLDs go live in 2013, one of which might be the implementation of a faster and cheaper URS system.
Functioning of the URS
URS is intended to provide a fast procedure to deal with clear cases of infringement. It is a required rights protection mechanism that must be in place before any new gTLDs can open. When a trademark holder files a complaint, the registrar immediately freezes the domain. The registrar then notifies to the company against which the complaint has been filed. The company then has 14 days to submit a response. If there is no reply from the company in 14 days, or if the response provided by the company is not reasonable, the domain name is suspended by the registry immediately. The domain name will not be deleted or transferred to the trademark owner, rather, the domain name will point to a mandatory URS placeholder page for the remaining registration period, unless the decision is reversed. The loser of the proceedings must pay for them.
Implementation of URS
In September 2012, ICANN senior executive Kurt Pirtz sent a public email to GNSO Council Chairman Stephane Van Gelder advising him that URS implementation could begin after a year of delay. Implementing URS included a pair of open meetings in Fall 2012, including one at ICANN 45 in Toronto. ICANN acknowledged the role played by the GNSO Council in developing and approving the model and said they were willing to "work in whichever way the GNSO wishes to proceed".
Around the time of ICANN 45 it had become apparent that the URS would not be implemented for the goal price point of $300 to $500, which is a fifth to a third the cost of a UDRP. The UDRP providers WIPO and National Arbitration Forum said they could not implement it for these prices, with WIPO stating it could possibly meet the goal if unresponsive defendants automatically lost their cases. This worried some in the GNSO about the possibility of fewer registrant rights under the URS, and they encouraged an open Request for Information bidding process. In November, 2012, ICANN's Olof Nordling signaled that he had received several bids that they were reviewing and he was no longer of the belief that the URS could not be implemented within its goal price points.
The first URS Provider, The National Arbitration Forum (FORUM) was announced in February 2013. ICANN described its application proposal as "stunning", and noted their "proven track record boasting resolution of over 19,000 claims in 12+ years of administering UDRP cases. Additionally, FORUM has already developed, and is currently operating a TLD-specific rapid relief system."
First Case Decided
Facebook submitted the first complaint through URS on August 21 2013, and the case was decided in favor of Facebook on September 26 2013. The case was concerning facebook.pw, a domain registered through .pw The Professional Web Registry. Although the system was created for the New gTLD Program, the .pw Registry adopted it as well in order to combat abuse especially in the early stages of public access to registration.
In December 2014, it was reported that the clothing company Aeropostale had won the first appeal of a URS proceeding.
Difference between URS and UDRP
The URS was set up to provide trademark owners a fast and effective way to protect their trademarks, as an alternative to the Uniform Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP). The main difference between the URS and UDRP is that the URS is stricter, and not anyone can file for URS. Unlike with UDRP, with URS the domain name is never transferred; it stays with the owner though the owner is not able to have online active service for the rest of its registration. Also, unlike with UDRP, the URS has an appeals process. The URS was intended as a more cost-effective alternative, as well.
In October, 2012, NTIA Assistant Secretary, Larry Strickling wrote to ICANN regarding its recent successes but also to implore it to continue to work on the Trademark Clearinghouse and the URS. Larry Strickling noted that ICANN had issued an update on the clearinghouse and a request for information searching for a URS services provider. NTIA encouraged ICANN to continue to allow stakeholders to evaluate and provide input on the the information presented by the applicants. It stressed that the URS was originally envisioned as an effective and low-cost alternative to the UDRP, and encouraged ICANN to ensure that cost concerns were kept in mind throughout their evaluation process. NTIA also encouraged ICANN to not stop working on the Intellectual Property mechanisms as is, but continue to explore other ways of ensuring that trademarks and brands remain safe within the landscape of current and new TLDs.
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- Strickling to Crocker. ICANN. Published 2012 October 4.