The Uniform Domain-Name Dispute-Resolution Policy (UDRP) is a policy established by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) to put some order to disputes between people who have purchased certain domain names and people who want the rights to those domain names without paying exorbitant prices for them. For example, the Trump Organization has recently filed UDRP proceedings so as to try and get the owner of TrumpWine.com and TrumpWines.com to hand over ownership of those domain names to The Donald. (Trump has only recently gotten into the business of wines.)
In order for a UDRP complaint to succeed, the complainant must establish three elements:
- The complainant has rights to a trademark or a service mark which is identical, or similar enough to be confused with, the domain name.
- The person who owns the domain name does not have any rights or any real interest in it.
- The person who owns the domain name is using it in “bad faith”.
“Bad faith” can have a complex set of meanings in legalese, and the panel adjudging the UDRP complaint will use a variety of factors to assess whether the use is in bad faith or not. But since a lot of people buy domain names that they hope to sell back at a profit when those names become useful to others, UDRP can be a real concern for people who traffic in domain names.
Unfortunately, the UDRP is weighted somewhat in favor of the person who owns the trademark, not the person who owns the domain name – basically, Trump is likely to win this round. Further legislation is almost certainly coming in the future, but for right now, you’ll walk a thin line in buying a domain name that’s similar to a well-known trademark or service mark.