WIPO Overview 3.0

WIPO has released the third edition of its WIPO Overview of WIPO Panel Decisions Views on Selected UDRP Questions.

Since the second edition, there have apparently been about 17,000 cases processed by WIPO under the UDRP.

If you have a potential domain name dispute problem, this is an excellent place to start and even more help if you are preparing, or defending, a Complaint under the UDRP.

Logan J has ruled that documents prepared by a firm of trade mark attorneys in connection with a domain name arbitration are not covered by trade marks attorney privilege. The limits on the scope of “trade marks attorney privilege” is the main takeaway – in particular, Logan J considered that a draft statutory declaration prepared in connection with a UDRP complaint did not fall within the scope of the privilege. There is a warning about how a claim of privilege is made too.

Logan J has ruled that documents prepared by a firm of trade mark attorneys in connection with a domain name arbitration are not covered by trade marks attorney privilege. The limits on the scope of “trade marks attorney privilege” is the main takeaway – in particular, Logan J considered that a draft statutory declaration prepared in connection with a UDRP complaint did not fall within the scope of the privilege. There is a warning about how a claim of privilege is made too.

Titan is suing a Mr Cross and a Dr Harmon alleging that a website they, or one of them, operated – Beware of Titan Garages – infringed its trade mark rights and copyright.

Titan alleges that Mr Cross is a fictitious person.[1]

Titan had previously brought a complaint against Mr Cross under the UDRP unsuccessfully. Mr Cross was represented in that dispute by a firm of patent and trade mark attorneys (the attorneys) and not their associated law firm.

Titan issued a subpoena to the attorneys for production of documents which disclosed information about the identity of Mr Cross. The subpoena allowed redaction of information in the documents protected by client legal privilege (apart from name and contact details). The attorneys produced documents in answer to the privilege in redacted form. After inspection, Titan sought to access the documents in unredacted form. The attorneys objected, citing s 229.

Section 229 provides that a communication, or a record or document, made for the dominant purpose of a registered trade marks attorney providing “intellectual property advice” is privileged in the same way and to the same extent as if made by a lawyer.

The attorneys recognised that the privilege was Mr Cross’ privilege; not theirs. They had made efforts to obtain his instructions, but these were not forthcoming. Mr Cross did not appear at the hearing before Logan J either. As it was Mr Cross’ privilege to waive or not, the attorneys properly maintained the objection.

Why the claim of privilege was refused

In support of the claim, the trade mark attorneys provided an affidavit by the solicitors acting for them in connection with the subpoena. It stated that the deponent was informed the documents:

(1) were part of the trade mark attorney firm’s confidential files; and

(2) contained confidential communications with the attorneys for the purpose of them giving advice in connection with the UDRP complaint.

Logan J considered that the evidence did not rise above “mere assertion” and, in the circumstances of this case, was insufficient to discharge the onus on the person claiming the privilege to prove the privilege applied. His Honour had earlier explained at [9] that:

“the essential issue on a claim for privilege is the purpose for which the document or communication in question was made”: Hancock v Rinehart at [32]. It necessarily follows that the best, though not the only sufficient, source of evidence is the direct evidence of the person whose purpose is in question: Hancock v Rinehart at [32]. Procedural fairness questions in relation to other affected parties intrude in relation to any endeavour to prove the requisite purpose just by an inspection by the Court of the document which is the subject of the asserted privilege. That means that a court ought to be cautious about acting upon an invitation so to do, especially if that invitation is not attended by separate evidence describing the document and the circumstances of its creation….

Logan J did acknowledge that there might be other situations where the circumstances could lead to a different result. His Honour’s approach, however, highlights the risks that can be run by what might be thought to have been a fairly typical form of claim to privilege.

No doubt the attorneys were hampered in preparing the response by Mr Cross’ failure to provide instructions. One might also speculate whether his failure to provide instructions or to appear in circumstances where Titan alleged he was fictitious influenced his Honour’s approach. Titan did not take the point that the affidavit was “on information and belief”, but that is often problematic.[2] Logan J was not invited to inspect the documents and did not consider it appropriate to do so of his own motion. Presumably the point of claiming the privilege would be lost if his Honour had inspected the documents.

The scope of trade mark attorney privilege

Logan J noted that s 229 provides a privilege only in respect of communications and documents made for the dominant purpose of providing “intellectual property advice”.

Relevantly, that was defined as advice in relation to “trade marks” or (one might add) “any related matters”.

His Honour pointed out at [11] – [12] that the privilege was conferred only in respect of the advisory aspect of client legal privilege and did not extend to the litigation aspects.[3] While s 19(2) of the Code of Conduct for Patent and Trade Marks Attorneys 2013 incorporates a duty of confidentiality into the attorneys’ retainer. The terms and scope of that obligation were not co-extensive with the privilege. Consequently at [14]:

As s 229 is presently drawn, it is certainly possible to conceive of anomalous outcomes concerning the existence or otherwise of s 229 privilege with respect to such an arbitral proceeding. For example, it is not controversial that advice as to whether the rights associated with a registered trade mark confer rights in respect of an Internet domain name fall within the definition of “intellectual property advice” in s 229(3). And so, too, would advice as to whether the contents of a statutory declaration for use in an arbitral proceeding were sufficient to demonstrate that those rights did or did not extend to an Internet domain name seem to fall within the ambit of s 229 privilege – either by virtue of paragraph (b) or (e) of the s 229(3) definition. But the mere drafting of that statutory declaration by a registered trade mark attorney would not attract s 229 privilege. Likewise, advice as to what submission ought to be made to demonstrate that the asserted trade mark right did or did not extend to cover a domain name would seem to fall within the scope of the privilege, whereas the mere drafting of such a submission for use in an arbitral proceeding would not. However this may be, the present claim must be determined solely by reference to the scope of the privilege as presently enunciated by Parliament. (emphasis supplied)

If with respect his Honour’s approach is right, there would appear to be potentially quite drastic consequences for the normal practice of attorney firms, and for that matter patent attorneys,[4] in drafting statutory declarations and preparing submissions in contested hearings before the Office such as opposition proceedings.

Of course, given the view Logan J took about the adequacy of the claim to privilege, his Honour’s view on the scope of the privilege is “only” obiter dicta.

And, it must be said, the circumstances were rather unusual given Mr Cross’ failure to provide instructions or defend his claim.

Further, his Honour was not considering the potential application of the privilege to proceedings in the Office. And it might be possible to argue that such proceedings are not what is normally within the scope of litigation privilege rather than “advisory” privilege. Both privilege provisions for trade mark attorneys and patent attorneys draw a clear line between “intellectual property advice” and “court proceedings”. But “arbitrations” under the UDRP are not court cases either, officially being styled administrative proceedings without prejudice to the parties’ rights to litigate in court.

It may be arguable that, given the traditional role of patent attorneys and trade marks attorneys in preparing such documents before the Office (at least), it can be argued that they fall within the scope of the “any related matters” part of the definition of “intellectual property advice”. That may be seen as straining the concept of “advice” too far in the dichotomy Logan J acted under.

On a positive note, Logan J accepted that documents prepared by persons who were not registered trade marks attorneys could benefit from the privilege if prepared under the supervision of a registered trade marks attorney.

Titan Enterprises (Qld) Pty Ltd v Cross [2016] FCA 1241


  1. at [4].  ?
  2. For example, Ansell Healthcare Products LLC v Reckitt Benckiser (Australia) Pty Ltd (No 2)
    [2016] FCA 765 at [32] – [35].  ?
  3. Contrast s 118 and s 119 of the Evidence Act 1995.  ?
  4. Patents Act 1990 s 200  ?

Dot Feedback

I was the panelist in an interesting UDRP dispute, debeers.feedback, which raises a couple of points worth being aware of.

If you’re not aware of it, .feedback is one of those new Top Level Domains that ICANN approved earlier this year. It is supposed to be a forum where people wishing to provide feedback (Duh!) can make their point. At the time of its approval, it was apparently rather controversial.

In this particular case, a number of what appeared to be otherwise genuine “feedback” posts only appeared on the website after Debeers sent a letter of demand, even though they were dated much earlier. The registrant did not seek to explain that.

The first point I wanted to draw your attention to is that, unbeknownst to the Complainant or me, the posts in question seem to have been cut and pasted from Yelp. If you have to deal with one of these domain names, a Google search will be in order.

Marty Schwimmer, the original trademark blog, suggests another argument: that “feedback” is semantically different to “.sucks” (and similar criticism outlets) and, Marty argues, implies an official outlet or connection.

auDRP Overview

You probably know that the auDRP is the dispute resolution policy for the .au domain name space. You may not know that there have been about 330 decisions in its roughly 12 years of operation.

Prof Andrew Christie, with a helping hand from James Gloster, Jeffry Kadarusman and Daniel Lau, has prepared an “Overview” outlining how the decisions have treated the various issues arising under the auDRP. And he is launching the auDRP Overview at a Workshop on Wednesday 27 August at 9:15 am to 10:45. Venue the Crown Promenade.

Details here.

Prof Christie is the Professor of Intellectual Property at the University of Melbourne a very experienced domain name panelist, having amongst other things written the seminal decision Telstra v Nuclear Marshmallows D2000-0003If you find yourself with a dispute over a domain name registered in the .au domain name space, I anticipate you will find your first stop being this overview. Given the influence of UDRP decisions on auDRP decisions, although there are some important differences, you will also probably find it helpful in the context of the UDRP too. Make sure you read it.

The WIPO Overview to the UDRP version 2.0 here.

auDRP review

auda is conducting a review of the auDRP – the dispute resolution policy covering domain names registered in the .au domain name space.

The auDRP was derived from the UDRP, so many of the principles worked out under the latter are equally applicable under the auDRP. Two of the main differences, however, are that under the auDRP:

  • a complainant may have rights sufficient to found a complaint “in a name”, not just a trade mark; and
  • the auDRP requires a complaint to show only registration in bad faith or use in bad faith, it is not necessary to show both bad faith requirements have been satisfied.

auda published an issues paper (pdf).

There is some interesting information about how many disputes there have been and which service providers have been providing the dispute resolution services – in recent years it has been WIPO and LEADR. There is also a breakdown of fees charged by various bodies for dispute resolution under the UDRP.

One question posed is whether auda should put the fees charged for dispute resolution up. Other issues on which submissions are invited were identified by ICANN in Annex 2 to its Final Issues Report (pdf) in 2011 on the UDRP. They include:

Policy/Process Issue

page3image4352

Description

Safe Harbors

Policy should include clear safe harbors, such as to protect free speech and fair use or other non-commercial rights of registrants

Appeals

page3image8608

No appeals of process in policy itself– two options appeal of decision or trial de novo

Establish an internal appeals process to ensure implementation of fair trial requirements

Statute of Limitations

There should be an express time limitation for claims brought under the policy

Reverse Domain Name Hijacking/
Uniform Procedures for Transfers

page3image15752

A finding of reverse domain name hijacking is rarely found, and panelists should be encouraged to make this finding when appropriate

No specified timeframe for implementing transfers

Business Constituency

Delays often experienced in implementation of decisions by Registrars

Loser Pays Nothing

Losing Respondent should pay filing fees and attorney’s fees

However, I am coming to this late: submissions, if any, are supposed to be in by 31 January 2013.

More on new gTLDs

Further to yesterday’s post, ICANN has released:

  • v4 of the draft Applicant’s Guidebook; and
  • an Economic Framework for the Analysis of the Expansion of Generic Top-level Domain Names;
  • and two “snapshots”.

The materials are open for public comment until 21 July.

Lid dip: Marty

The Economic Framework and snapshots can be downloaded via here.

Try not to be cynical: this is about giving people who missed out on registering their domain name in .com (or wherever) a chance to get their preferred domain name; it is not about creating ways for registrars to generate more fees or …

According to the Economic Framework document, there would be a US$185,000 starting fee for a new gTLD.

It identified:

The potential benefits of new gTLDs to Internet users are that they may provide competition to existing gTLDs, add differentiation and new products that are valuable to consumers, and/or relieve congestion problems caused by having only a few gTLDs.

Notwithstanding 2 waves of new gTLDs, 73% of domain names registered in “open” gTLDs are still registered in .com (which accounts for only 6.3% of all domain names). “Only” 52% of survey respondents who registered their domain name in .biz, for example, had registered the domain “for defensive purposes”, i.e., to stop someone else registering it. So much for competition and reducing congestion. How many people can register “coca-cola” anyway?

Apparently, one fifth of survey respondents who registered in .biz or .info or .name had not previously registered a domain name and 55% claimed to have registered a different domain name to names registered in a pre-existing gTLD. However, looking at duplicate domain names registered in more than 1 open gTLD:

a high percentage of domain names registered on .info were also registered on .com (89 percent), .net (81 percent), and .org (75 percent), and a high percentage of domain names registered on .biz were also registered on .com (85 percent).

but:

only 11 percent of the overlapping .info and .com names were registered to the same owner. For .biz and .com overlap, the percentage registered to the same owner was higher, 42 percent.

A different study by Zittrain and Edelman based on a sample of 823 names registered in both .biz and .com estimated about 20-30% were registered to the same person.

About half of the registrations in .info and .biz were inactive, while 15% simply redirected to another website.

New gTLDs might reduce search costs, perhaps, on the theory that you would only have to go to the .canon gTLD to find information about Canon’s products. Would Canon give up canon.com? Who searches that way anyway? Only 90% of survey respondents reported using a search engine to find things on the Internet – so for those users of search engines, new gTLDs are “less likely” to reduce search costs. How long does it take to get a search result from Google or Bing! or Yahoo (may be a problem with exclamation marks here)?

On the negative side, the Economic Framework reports an estimate of legal costs for UDRP proceedings in the order of US$1.58 million which “suggests that the external costs associated with cyber-squatting in new gTLDs would be low”, although the study does acknowledge that there would be an increase in costs having regard to steps taken outside the UDRP.

The Framework also reports on a fascinating study about “typosquatting”. Apparently, about 80% of the sample misspelt domain names resolved to pay-per-click advertising sites.

“Industry sources” reported to ICANN that it costs a company between US$6,000 and %15,000 p.a. to monitor each trade mark that is being protected. [What monitoring activities are your clients spending that money on?]

There is lots more fascinating detail in the Economic Framework document in particular.

WIPO UDRP annual report

WIPO’s annual report summarising developments in domain name disputes for 2008 has been published here.

The headline attracting news around the world:

a record 2,329 complaints filed

Interestingly,

the WIPO Center has received 14,663 UDRP or UDRP-based cases (gTLDs and ccTLDs), covering 26,262 separate domain names. Reflecting the truly global scope of this dispute mechanism, named parties to WIPO cases represented over 100 countries in 2008 alone. The United States of America (US), France, the United Kingdom (UK), Germany, Switzerland and Spain were the most frequent bases for complainants, while the US, the UK, China, Spain, Canada, and France were the most represented countries by named respondent party

and

almost 30% of all cases were settled without a panel decision. Of the remainder, 85% of the panel decisions favored the complainant, while 15% of the complaints were denied, leaving the names in the possession of the registration holder. Cases were handled by 285 WIPO panelists from 40 countries.

There are also short notes on what sectors were affected, and further developments in the domain name space.