How to Suspend a .us Domain Name

How to Suspend a .us Domain Name
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Although rarely used, the usTLD Rapid Suspension Dispute Policy (usRS) allows a trademark owner to seek the suspension of a domain name in the .us country-code top-level domain (ccTLD).

The usRS has many things in common with the Uniform Rapid Suspension System (URS), which applies to domain names in the new generic top-level domains (gTLD). Among other things:

  • Both policies are administered by the Forum.
  • Both policies have filing fees that start at only $375.
  • Both policies have strict, 500-word limits on complaints.
  • Both policies have awkward mechanisms for addressing defaults and appealing decisions.
  • Both policies require a trademark owner to prove three (almost identical) elements to prevail.
  • Both policies set a high burden of proof: “clear and convincing evidence.”
  • Both policies allow a trademark owner to get a domain name suspended for the balance of the registration period (plus one year, if the trademark owner pays the renewal fee).
  • Both policies are very quick, typically requiring an examiner to submit a determination within three business days after examination begins.

Under the usRS policy, a trademark owner must prove all three of the following to obtain a suspension order:

the registered domain name is identical or confusingly similar to a word mark: (i) for which the Complainant holds a valid national or regional registration and that is in current use; or (ii) that has been validated through court proceedings; or (iii) that is specifically protected by a statute or treaty in effect at the time the usRS complaint is filed; and

 

the Registrant has no legitimate right or interest to the domain name; and

 

the domain was registered or is being used in bad faith

The usRS contains one key difference from the URS: While the URS requires a trademark owner to prove that the disputed domain name “was registered and is being used in bad faith,” the usRS requires only that the disputed domain name “was registered or is being used in bad faith.”

It’s a subtle but potentially important distinction. It’s also consistent with the differences between the dispute policies that allow a trademark owner to seek the transfer of a domain name: The Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP) (which applies to .com and the new gTLDs, among others) contains the same “and” requirement for the bad faith element, while the usDRP (which applies to the .us ccTLD) uses the lower-threshold “or” language.

In any event, there have been very few decisions under the usRS, so it’s unclear what impact, if any, the looser bad faith requirement has played. As of this writing, the Forum has had more than 650 URS cases since 2013 (and the Forum is not the only URS service provider), but only four usRS decisions since the policy went into effect on July 1, 2014. The scarcity of cases is probably due to a combination of factors, including the relatively low popularity of the .us ccTLD; the limited suspension remedy; and a lack of awareness by trademark owners of the availability of the usRS.

(According to Neustar, the registry operator for the .us ccTLD, there are about 2.1 million .us domain name registrations. By comparison, there are about 127.5 million .com domain name registrations.)

Despite its lack of popularity, the usRS is a quick, inexpensive and effective way for a trademark owner to tackle cybersquatting in the .us ccTLD.

 

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