Nominet’s DRS Procedure: a brief guide

11 Sep 2009
Alasdair Taylor

Nominet is the organisation responsible for the administration of the .uk top level domain, including the procedure used for the resolution of certain classes of domain name dispute. There are two basic documents governing Nominet’s Dispute Resolution Service (DRS): the Policy and the Procedure.  The DRS Policy sets out the substantive grounds upon which a complaint may be made; whereas the DRS Procedure governs the procedural aspects of the Nominet DRS.

This note is a brief summarise the DRS Procedure (and unless otherwise stated, all paragraph references below are to the paragraphs of the DRS Procedure).

If you are the complainant

Any person or legal entity is entitled to make a complaint. You may make a complaint jointly with other persons, as long as one of you is specified as the ‘lead complainant’.  At the time of making the complaint you must also specify which of the complainants is to become the sole registrant of the disputed domain name. You must submit your complaint electronically, but it may be necessary to send some information as hard copy.  You need to set up an account with Nominet, in order to file a complaint. See the Nominet website for specific details on e-filing (paragraph 24).  Your complaint musn’t exceed 5000 words, and you must specify the registered domain name that is the subject of the dispute, as well as the similar or identical name you want to assert your rights in.  In preparing the complaint, you should close attention to the DRS Policy, which sets out exactly what you will need to prove.  Once Nominet has received the complaint, it will check that it complies with all the formal requirements, and if it does not, you will have 3 days to make any required corrections (paragraph 4).  Nominet will then forward the complaint to the respondent, who will have 15 days to file a response (paragraph 5).  You then have a right to reply to this response, which must be restricted solely to new matters the respondent has raised, and that you have not raised in the original complaint (paragraph 6). If the respondent does not file a response, you are entitled to apply for a summary decision (paragraph 5).

If you are the respondent

If you have been notified that a complaint has been filed against your registered domain name, you have 15 days to file a response.  You must submit this response to Nominet electronically, but it may be necessary to send some information in hard copy.  See the Nominet website for specific details on e-filing (paragraph 24).  Your response musn’t exceed 5000 and you must specify the grounds that you rely on in your defence (see, in particular, paragraph 4 of the DRS policy).  The specific formal and procedural  requirements concerning the response are set out in paragraph 5 of the Procedure. You don’t have to file a response, in which case the complainant is entitled to apply for a summary decision.  If the nominated expert in that case grants the complainant’s application, your registration of the domain name will be transferred to the complainant.

The post-filing procedure

Once the complaint, the response, and reply to the response, if any, have been received, Nominet will commence informal mediation between the complainant and the respondent (paragraph 7).  All information discussed during this mediation is treated as confidential. If no resolution is reached, the complainant has the option of paying a fee and having an expert nominated by Nominet, who will make a decision in this case.  If the complainant does not pay this fee, Nominet will consider the complaint to be withdrawn, unless the respondent chooses the pay for the expert (paragraph 8). The expert may request further statements from the complainant or the respondent (paragraph 13).  No in-person hearings will be conducted, unless the expert determines it to be necessary (paragraph 14).  The expert will base his decision on the parties’ submissions, but there may be cases where the expert wishes to rely on other relevant information which is not in the case papers, in which case he will inform the complainant and respondent, and invite them to make additional submissions (paragraph 16). Once the expert has reached a decision, he will communicate it to the complainant and respondent (paragraph 17), and either party has the right to appeal the decision (paragraph 18).  If the complainant and respondent reach an approved settlement during the proceedings, Nominet will terminate the DRS proceedings (paragraph 19).

This article was researched and written by Harriet Zimmermann.

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