What is the National Arbitration Forum

Doug Isenberg interviews Renee Fossen (director of the »Forum«) about the UDRP year 2020

Domain attorney and UDRP decision maker Doug Isenberg had the opportunity to speak to Renee Fossen, Director of the Forum Mediation Unit, formerly the National Arbitration Forum (NAF). The focus of the conversation was of course on the UDRP decisions 2020, but the question of how to deal with the GDPR and COVID-19 was also inevitable.

The half-hour video interview by Doug Isenberg from Giga.law with Renee Fossen, director of the forum, begins with an overview of what the forum, which was founded in 1986 and is celebrating its 35th anniversary, does and what services it offers. The start as a general mediation office extended from the beginning over a wide field of arbitration and mediation in the areas of business-to-business, employment, franchise, intellectual property and more, but also training and education. With the introduction of the Uniform Domain-Name Dispute-Resolution Policy (UDRP) by ICANN in 1999, Forum also took over the settlement of domain disputes. The Minneapolis, Minnesota-based dispute settlement body is the only ICANN-accredited institution in the United States. UDRP processes are now the core business. They offer great customer service, respond to questions within 24 hours and deliver quick decisions: on average, it takes 35 days from the application to the decision, a procedure usually takes a maximum of 40 days, rarely longer. Due to the worldwide network of panelists who speak numerous languages, everyone is given the opportunity to fall back on the forum - with special foreign languages ​​one might have to ask.

2020 turned out to be a record year for UDRP proceedings at Forum. At first, when the COVID-19 pandemic began, a decrease in the number of cases was expected, but was then surprised. Fossen initially assumed that fewer proceedings would be conducted because of the low income caused by the pandemic. This also applied to the entertainment, fashion, and travel industries. But the finance industry, insurance and pharmaceutical companies went to great lengths to achieve this. Fossen also sees a connection in the general increase in domain registrations: cybersquatters had more time to do their thing, but lawyers could also devote more time to prosecuting cybersquatters. Of course, numerous domain disputes about Covid and Vaccine domains have been conducted; Although this 5 percent is a factor in the increase, it is not a decisive factor. Fossen sums up despite the COVID-19 pandemic 2020:

we had the busiest filing year we’ve ever had since the implementation of the UDRP.

The situation was different for Uniform Rapid Suspension (URS) procedures. This type of procedure is being used less and less, and in 2020 it reached its lowest point since its introduction in 2014. Fossen suspects that the suspension of the domains as a result of a successful USR procedure is ultimately not sufficient because the domain will not be transferred and must be monitored further. The further observation of the domain in particular causes additional costs. Apart from that, this process, which is now also used on .org domains, is still unknown to many trademark owners. Isenberg also brings up the General Data Protection Regulation and its effects. Fossen points out the changes to the regulations: Since the WHOIS often no longer provides the necessary data, the hurdle for providing information about the UDRP opponent has been reduced. Changes have also been made to the regulations with regard to the costs of follow-up briefs: no more fees are charged for them and the individual panelist decides whether to allow follow-up briefs for the procedure.

Finally, Fossen and Isenberg also discussed how to deal with the pandemic internally. The forum itself did not experience any technical problems. Employees could be sent to the home office very quickly. Some employees, so-called case coordinators, some of whom have been with us for over 20 years, have to go to the office to receive any mail, as there are still parties who pay by check. Apart from that, there were no problems with the UDRP procedures, which generally took place online. In this regard, they also see advantages over civil law proceedings, which are restricted due to the pandemic. In addition, it was also possible to continue the other business areas of the forum, for example by carrying out mediations online via zoom.