Thao Nguyen, MJLST Staffer
Anyone can register a domain name through one of the thousands of registrars on a first-come, first-serve basis at a low cost. The ease of entry has created so-called “cybersquatters,” who register for domain names that reflect trademarks before the true trademark owners are able to do so. Cybersquatters often aim to profit from cybersquatting activities, either by selling the domain names back to the trademark holders for a higher price, by generating confusion in order to take advantage of the trademark’s goodwill, or by diluting the trademark and disrupting the business of a competitor. A single cybersquatter can cybersquat on several thousand domain names that incorporate well-known trademarks.
Paragraph 4(a) of the UDRP provides that the complainant must successfully establish all three of the following of elements: (i) that the disputed domain name is identical or confusingly similar to a trademark or service mark in which the complainant has rights; (ii) that the registrant has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the domain name; and (iii) that the registrant registered and is using the domain name in bad faith. Remedies for a successful complainant include cancellation or transfer to the complainant of the disputed domain name.
Although prized for being focused, expedient, and inexpensive, the UDRP is not without criticism, the bulk of which focuses on the issue of fairness. The frequent charge is that the UDRP is inherently biased in favor of trademark owners and against domain name holders, not all of whom are “cybersquatters.” This bias is indicated by statistics: 75% to 90% of URDP decisions each year are decided against the domain name owner.
Nonetheless, the asymmetry of outcomes, rather than being a sign of an unfair arbitration process, may simply reflect the reality that most UDRP complaints are brought when there is a clear case of abuse, and most respondents in the proceeding are true cybersquatters who knowingly and willfully violated the UDRP. Therefore, what may appear to be the UDRP’s shortcomings are in facts signs that the UDRP is fulfilling its primary purpose. Furthermore, to appreciate the UDRP proceeding and understand the asymmetry that might normally raise red flags in an adjudication, one must understand that the UDRP is not meant to resolve trademark dispute. A representative case where this purpose is addressed is Cameron & Company, Inc. v. Patrick Dudley, FA1811001818217 (FORUM Dec. 26, 2018), where the Panel wrote, “cases involving disputes regarding trademark rights and usage, trademark infringement, unfair competition, deceptive trade practices and related U.S. law issues are beyond the scope of the Panel’s limited jurisdiction under the Policy.” In other words, the UDRP’s scope is limited to detecting and reversing the damages of cybersquatting, and the administrative dispute-resolution procedure is streamlined for this purpose.
That the UDRP is not a trademark court is evident in the UDRP’s refusal to handle cases where multiple legitimate complainants assert right to a single domain name registered by a cybersquatter. UDRP Rule 3(a) states: “Any person or entity may initiate an administrative proceeding by submitting a complaint.” The Forum’s Supplemental Rule 1(e) defines “The Party Initiating a Complaint Concerning a Domain Name Registration” as a “single person or entity claiming to have rights in the domain name, or multiple persons or entities who have a sufficient nexus who can each claim to have rights to all domain names listed in the Complaint.” UDRP cases with two or more complainants in a proceeding are possible only when the complainants are affiliated with each other as to share a single license to a trademark, for example, when the complainant is assigned rights to a trademark registered by another entity, or when the complainant has a subsidiary relationship with the trademark registrant.
Since the UDRP does not resolve a good faith trademark dispute but intervenes only when there is clear abuse, the respondent’s bad faith is central: a domain name may be confusingly similar or even identical to a trademark, and yet a complainant cannot prevail if the respondent has rights and legitimate interests in the domain name and/or did not register and use the domain name in bad faith. For this reason, the UDRP sets a high standard for the complainant to establish respondent’s bad faith. For example, UDRP provides a defense if the domain name registrant has made demonstrable preparations to use the domain name in a bona fide offering of goods or services. On the other hand, the Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act (“ACPA”) only provides a defense if there is prior good faith use of the domain name, not simply preparation to use. Another distinction between the UDRP and the ACPA is that the UDRP requires that complainant prove bad faith in both registration and use of the disputed domain to prevail, whereas the ACPA only requires complainant to prove bad faith in either registration or use.
Such a high standard for bad faith indicates that the UDRP is not equipped resolve issues where both parties dispute their respective rights in the trademark. In fact, when abuse is non-existent or not obvious, the UDRP Panel would refuse to transfer the disputed domain name from the respondent to the complainant. Instead, the parties would need to resolve these claims in regular courts under either the ACPA or the Latham act. Limiting itself to addressing cybersquatting allows the UDRP to become extremely efficient in dealing with cybersquatting practices, a widespread and highly damaging abuse of the Internet age. This efficiency and ease of the UDRP process is appreciated by trademark-owning businesses and individuals, who prefer that disputes are handled promptly and economically. From the time of the UDRP’s creation until now, ICANN has not shown intention for reforming the Policy despite existing criticisms, and for good reasons.
 Gerald M. Levine, Domain Name Arbitration: Trademarks, Domain Names, and Cybersquatting at 102 (2019).
 Tasty Baking, Co. & Tastykake Invs., Inc. v. Quality Hosting, FA 208854 (FORUM Dec. 28, 2003) (treating the two complainants as a single entity where both parties held rights in trademarks contained within the disputed domain names.)
 Golden Door Properties, LLC v. Golden Beauty / goldendoorsalon, FA 1668748 (FORUM May 7, 2016) (finding rights in the GOLDEN DOOR mark where Complainant provided evidence of assignment of the mark, naming Complainant as assignee); Remithome Corp v. Pupalla, FA 1124302 (FORUM Feb. 21, 2008) (finding the complainant held the trademark rights to the federally registered mark REMITHOME, by virtue of an assignment); Stevenson v. Crossley, FA 1028240 (FORUM Aug. 22, 2007) (“Per the annexed U.S.P.T.O. certificates of registration, assignments and license agreement executed on May 30, 1997, Complainants have shown that they have rights in the MOLD-IN GRAPHIC/MOLD-IN GRAPHICS trademarks, whether as trademark holder, or as a licensee. The Panel concludes that Complainants have established rights to the MOLD-IN GRAPHIC SYSTEMS mark pursuant to Policy ¶ 4(a)(i).”)
 Provide Commerce, Inc v Amador Holdings Corp / Alex Arrocha, FA 1529347 (FORUM Jan. 3, 2014) (finding that the complainant shared rights in a mark through its subsidiary relationship with the trademark holder); Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc. v. Indian Springs Motor, FA 157289 (FORUM June 23, 2003) (“Complainant has established that it has rights in the TOYOTA and LEXUS marks through TMC’s registration with the USPTO and Complainant’s subsidiary relationship with TMC.”)
 Levine, supra note 1, at 99; see e.g., Dr. Alan Y. Chow, d/b/a Optobionics v. janez bobnik, FA2110001967817 (FORUM Nov. 23, 2021) (refusing to transfer the <optobionics.com> domain name despite its being identical to Complainant’s OPTOBIONICS mark and formerly owned by Complainant, since “[t]he Panel finds no evidence in the Complainant’s submissions . . . [that] the Respondent a) does not have a legitimate interest in the domain name and b) registered and used the domain name in bad faith.”).
 Swisher International, Inc. v. Hempire State Smoke Shop, FA2106001952939 (FORUM July 27, 2021).
 Id. at 359.