Domain Name Disputes
At the beginning of March 2000, it was reported in South African newspapers that Safmarine had thwarted a US$20000 extortion attempt by Universal Artists of the United Arab Emirates.
Universal Artists had registered the domain name safmarine.com as an internet address. The company indicated to Safmarine that it would be willing to give up the name for US$20 000,00.
Safmarine approached the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) regarding the dispute over the domain name safmarine.com.
WIPO is an inter-governmental organisation with headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland. It is one of the sixteen specialised agencies of the United Nations system of organisations.
WIPO is responsible for the promotion and the protection of intellectual property throughout the world through co-operation amongst states, and for the administration of various multi-lateral treaties dealing with the legal and administrative aspects of intellectual property. This organisation deals with patents, trade marks, designs and copyright.
The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) agreed to a uniform domain name dispute resolution policy in August 1999, based largely on the recommendations contained in the Report of the WIPO Internet Domain Name Process and based on submissions by Registrars and other interested parties. All ICANN-accredited Registrars that are authorised to register names in the .com, .net, and .org top-level domains, have agreed to abide by and implement the ICANN policy. Any person or entity wishing to register a domain name in the .com, .net and .org top-level domains, is required to consent to the terms and conditions of the ICANN policy.
Rules for a uniform domain name dispute resolution policy were adopted by ICANN in October 1999. These set out the procedures and other requirements for each stage of the dispute resolution administrative procedure. Dispute resolution service providers accredited by ICANN administer this procedure.
The WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Centre has been accredited by ICANN.
Any person or company in the world can file a domain name complaint concerning a .com, .net or .org domain name using the ICANN administrative procedure through WIPO and other accredited dispute resolution service providers.
As safmarine.com falls within the scope of the ICANN / WIPO domain name dispute resolution policy, it was possible for Safmarine to submit its complaint regarding Universal Artists of the United Arab Emirates to WIPO for resolution. When Universal Artists of the United Arab Emirates registered the domain name safmarine.com it was obliged to agree to abide by and implement the ICANN domain name dispute resolution policy, bringing any dispute regarding the domain name within the jurisdiction of ICANN and its accredited dispute resolution service providers.
The applicable fees for the administrative procedure dealt with by WIPO will vary depending on the number of domain names included in the complaint and whether the panel will be constituted by a single member or by three members. The range of fees varies from US$1000 to US$3500. Where there are more than 10 domain names included in the complaint, the fee will be decided in consultation with the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Centre.
It is important to note that this procedure only applies to .com, .net and .org domain name registrations. It will therefore not apply at this stage to South African registered .za domain name disputes. It can be used where a South African individual or company seeks to register a domain name as a .com, .org or .net domain name and finds its way blocked by a person or a company who is trafficking in domain names.
Spoor & Fisher