New Domain Name Dispute Study: 7 Panellists Decide Nearly Half of All Cases

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DNattorney.com’s new study of domain name dispute decisions again shows that procedural reform of ICANN’s UDRP is urgently needed. Decision making is apparently being concentrated amongst a handful of select American panelists who decide a vastly disproportionate number of international cases, thereby potentially affecting outcomes and creating an appearance of injustice.

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Domain Dispute Rules Need Urgent Reform

A study of domain name dispute decisions by domain name legal experts at DNattorney.com reveals that a select handful of American panelists are being appointed behind closed doors to handle nearly half of all National Arbitration Forum (NAF) domain name dispute cases.

International domain name disputes are administered by four ICANN-accredited domain name dispute resolution providers, one of which is the Minnesota-based NAF. The NAF is mandated to adjudicate domain name disputes between trademark owners and domain name owners involving allegations of cybersquatting. The NAF has administered approximately 17,000 disputes since 1999.

When DNattorney.com first reported on this issue on November 20, 2009, it found that there was a significant concentration of appointments among 10 particular NAF panellists. This new follow-up report again confirms a disproportionate appointment process. Of the approximately 4,144 cases between March 5, 2010 and July 4, 2012, 7 mainly NAF-appointed panellists were appointed to 1,921 or 46% of all cases. There are currently approximately 136 panellists on NAF's roster. This means that 5% of panellists decided 46 per cent of cases. The most-appointed arbitrator by the NAF was James A. Carmody, who decided approximately 354, or 8.5 percent of all cases.

“All seven of these select panelists are American, even though cases are filed by parties all over the world and the roster includes numerous non-American panellists”, said Michael Ettedgui, a law student who conducted the study of domain name disputes. This shows that the NAF may be favouring American panelists when the ICANN UDRP system is international in nature.        

“ICANN has not established rules for the selection of domain name dispute panellists but should immediately do so to ensure that cases are not just conducted fairly, but appear to be conducted fairly”, said Zak Muscovitch, a domain name attorney and principal of DNattorney.com. “NAF has professionally administered thousands of disputes for 13 years and has an impressive roster of fair-minded and expert panellists, but perhaps it is time for it to consider moving beyond a select handful of American panelists”, says Muscovitch. “Since the NAF regularly hears disputes between litigants in various countries around the world, it would be prudent to give panellists from countries other than the United States an equal opportunity to adjudicate NAF proceedings,” concluded Muscovitch, a domain name lawyer.

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