Neither the UDRP policy nor its corresponding rules directly address this issue, although the rules state that a “complaint may relate to more than one domain name, provided that the domain names are registered by the same domain-name holder.”
As I have written before (see, “The Efficiency of Large UDRP Complaints“), there are obvious incentives for a trademark owner to include multiple domain names in a complaint. Chief among them: The filing per domain name can drop significantly when more than one is included in a complaint.
For example, under WIPO’s fee schedule, the base filing fee of $1,500 doesn’t change even if the complaint includes up to five domain names. Said another way, for a UDRP complaint with one domain name, the filing fee is $1,500 per domain name; but if five domain names are included, the effective filing fee drops to only $300 per domain name.
Although the total filing fee increases if a UDRP complaint includes more than five domain names, the effective fee per domain name can be reduced tremendously with large complaints. (WIPO’s published fee schedule only addresses complaints with up to 10 domain names, with larger filings incurring a fee “[t]o be decided in consultation with the WIPO Center.”)
As the chart above makes clear, the average number of domain names per complaint (at WIPO) has varied through the years — from one (in 1999, when the first and only UDRP complaint was filed) to 2.39 (in 2013). The largest UDRP complaint ever filed included more than 1,500 domain names. (Disclosure: I represented the complainant in that massive case.)
So far in 2016, the average number of domain names per complaint is slightly higher than in 2015 (1.79 v. 1.58), thanks in part to some particularly large filings this year, such as a complaint filed by Jaguar Land Rover Limited for 101 domain names; a complaint filed by Bank of America Corporation for 59 domain names; a complaint filed (and terminated before decision) by Calvin Klein Trademark Trust & Calvin Klein, Inc. for 72 domain names; and a complaint filed by Facebook, Inc. and Instagram, LLC for 46 domain names.
‘Same Domain-Name Holder’ Confusion
While the UDRP rules’ reference to “the same domain-name holder” may at first glance seem clear when it is appropriate to include multiple domain names in a single complaint, in practice the issue can become quite complicated. As Gerald M. Levine has succinctly put it in his book on domain name disputes, “The phrase ‘same domain name holder’ has been construed liberally to include registrants who are not the same person but circumstances suggest the domain names are controlled by a single entity.”
Just what these “circumstances” are can sometimes be difficult to decipher, especially when one person or entity provides multiple registrant names for multiple domain names. For example, one UDRP panel wrote (in a case brought by General Electric Company for 17 domain names): “[T]he mere fact of registrants being differently named has, in various previous cases, not prevented a finding that there is one proper Respondent, in circumstances which indicate that the registrants may be regarded as the same entity in effect.”
The issue of whether multiple domain names are registered by a single “domain-name holder” is especially complicated when privacy or proxy services mask the registrant’s true identity.
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In any event, a trademark owner contemplating whether to file a UDRP complaint may find the process more compelling if it can pursue numerous (or even just two) domain names at once and can be well-served by researching connections among multiple domain names. By addressing more than one domain name at a time, a trademark owner can save both time and money while resolving multiple problems simultaneously.