In most legal disputes, settlement is a less costly and more expeditions means to resolution than trial, and domain name disputes are no different. A domain name dispute can be settled through a variety of channels. Domain settlements can be independently negotiated, or facilitated through a third-party mediator or dispute resolution provider. There is no right or single way to settle a domain name dispute, but some options are better than others. Determining the best course for you will involve research, communication, and usually consultation with a domain dispute lawyer or other domain name dispute professional.
Most domain name dispute settlements are initiated as soon as a complaint is issued. Domain name disputes arise under a variety of circumstances. A domain name that is alleged to contain someone else’s trademark, or a domain name that leads to an inappropriate or infringing website, is often the subject of a domain name dispute.
The first thing that usually happens in a dispute is that the aggrieved party, usually the trademark owner or subject of the alleged infringement, contacts the domain name owner and complains. These complaints are typically paired with the threat of a lawsuit to recover damages. Sometimes, settlement offers are also attached.
Deciding whether to accept a settlement offer can be a difficult decision. If it seems likely that an injury has been sustained, accepting the settlement offer and making a payment can be a good way to avoid the costs of trial and the risk of a court-awarded judgment. Court-awarded judgments are higher than settlement costs in most instances.
On the other hand, if injury does not seem likely, or if there is a legitimate question as to the rightful ownership or use of the domain name, the settlement offer might be rejected. All is not lost, however. Even if immediate settlement is not going to be an option, many parties elect to hash out their disputes in an arbitration or dispute resolution forum, rather than going to court.
Most of the time, it is a good idea to consult with a lawyer who specializes in domain name disputes and resolutions prior to issuing legal threats or initiating settlements. Representation is not usually required in any legal dispute, but consultation and professional advice is a practical way to assure that your claims are solid, and that settlement amounts at play are reasonable. A lawyer with experience in settlement negotiations can often secure better settlement awards, and can save time in the long run by identifying workable strategies and demands at the outset.
Domain name disputes are arbitrated in every country pursuant to the rules of the Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP). The UDRP requires certain resolution processes before a domain name can be canceled, suspended, or transferred. The largest UDRP providers for domain name disputes are the Switzerland-based World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), and the United States-based National Arbitration Forum (NAF).
Both WIPO and NAF offer several options for domain name dispute resolution services. Domain dispute mediation and domain dispute arbitration are among the most popular. Mediation and arbitration both require the parties to appear before either a mediator or a dispute resolution panel, and present their sides of the dispute. The facilitators will usually then encourage the parties to come to a settlement voluntarily and, barring that, will issue a unilateral settlement decision.
Settlement decisions are binding, and will compel transfer or cancellation of a domain name. Reaching a settlement through a dispute resolution or arbitration service can be expensive, but it is usually much less expensive than going to court. It is usually faster, as well, particularly for parties who would not be able to settle things on their own.