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Domain Names & Efficient Dispute Resolution

Domain Name Dispute Resolution Centre (DNDRC) and its Efficacy for resolving Disputes regarding infringing Domain Names with .pk ccTLD

Barrister Ahmad Farooq Malik

The website of DNDRC introduces it as an entity which was incorporated in the first quarter of 2006 with input and assistance from the Hong Kong International Arbitration Center[1] (HKIAC) which played an important role in encouraging the establishment of a domain name dispute resolution centre and its procedures in Pakistan for Pakistan’s .pk ccTLD.

HKIAC is a partner in and manager of the Hong Kong Office of in the Asian Domain Name Dispute Resolution Centre which is one of the four domain name dispute resolution providers approved by the Internet Corporation for the Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN)[2] to provide domain name dispute resolution services in regard to generic top level domain names (gTLDs) such as .com, .net and .org. Disputes in regard to gTLDs are carried out under the Uniform Domain Name Policy (UDRP)[3] issued by ICANN.

PKNIC[4] being cognizant of the need for such a service had been attempting to initiate such a service but due to the lack of availability of local techno-legal expertise in this area PKNIC entered into an understanding with DNDRC for the provision of DNDRC’s service to .pk ccTLD user.

The PK NIC policy states the following:

If a party claims that a domain name already registered with PKNIC violates their registered tradename, an obvious derivation of their registered company name, is not bona fide as recognized by international best practice, is a contravention in the opinion of PKNIC to be a contravention of the latest version of the Pakistan Penal Code Act, 1860 (including offences of defamation & blasphemy)/ Anti-Terrorism Act, 1997/any applicable criminal law, PKNIC reserves the right to cancel, or transfer the domain to the claiming party as per the ICANN’s Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (with PKNIC amendments) or as per the orders of a court judgment in Pakistan.

The Center has been set up by Pakistani professionals and business interests with an independent structure to ensure that the value of the Pakistani domain name space under the .pk ccTLD be given greater protection and confidence to ensure that its economic value and its image and perception is not prejudiced by a spate of cyber-squatting registrations. Such violations of the trade mark and legitimate interest holders’ rights in .pk ccTLD domain names were proliferated due to the absence of a cost effective, efficient and independent mechanism/forum which could serve as an  impartial dispute resolution service for .pk ccTLD domain names.[5]

The DNDRC is the sole provider of dispute resolution services in regards to .pk domain names, having been appointed for such purpose by the PKNIC, the Registrar of .pk Domain Names. Mandatory final and binding arbitration is the method chosen by DNDRC for the purpose of resolving disputes in regards to .pk domain names.

Resolution of these disputes in regard to “.pk” ccTLDs are carried out under the Uniform Domain Name Policy (UDRP) and the Rules for Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy as approved by ICANN. The Supplemental Rules of DNDRC, which may come into effect from time to time will also apply to such Dispute Resolutions Procedures.[6]

The DNDRC entertains complaints against domain names with “.pk” ccTLDs which are either existing as a result of cyber-squatting or by some habitual infringer of intellectual property rights. The remedy for the rightful owner of the domain name consisting of the trademarked word is either to file a civil suit in a court of law and seek permanent injunction or it may file a complaint before the DNDRC. Ultimately, if the complainant is successful in establishing its case against the unlawful domain, the domain is consequently transferred to the complainant on the payment of a small transfer fee to PKNIC. Like any adjudicating forum (arbitrator), when compared to a court of law, the mechanism required to be adopted before the DNDRC has its own pros and a few cons as well. The procedure before the DNDRC for this dispute resolution is convenient as no formal hearings are required to be undertaken by the Arbitrator. Hiring a lawyer is not necessary to present one’s case, however we will discuss later that dispensing with a professional lawyer’s services in DNDRC matters may not lead to the desired results. Arguably the best part of the DNDRC process is that the complaint is usually decided within 4-6 months which is when compared to the usual several number of years before a court of law. is a great relief, which this dispute resolution system can provide. The detailed rules/procedure for filing a complaint before the DNDRC can be found in the Rules for Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy as approved by ICANN which are strictly adhered to while filing a complaint. This rigidity is a mirror image of the strict adherence to the Civil Procedure Code 1908 before a civil court of law. One would have expected a more flexible approach before the DNDRC but unfortunately that is not the case. The strict formal procedure and forms[7] and the arbitrator’s fee are factors which make the whole dispute resolution process cumbersome for a non-legal person. It can be said that if one is out to secure their rights (intellectual property rights), the correct professional advice and guidance becomes an important content of the whole effort. Without such experts present to handle complaints (e.g. draft the complaint, its filing, its follow up etc) , it may be seen as not less of a formal process and procedure when compared to a court of law. The significance of hiring professional lawyers (although not required by the rules) cannot be denied. The process before the DNDRC is efficacious and fruitful for rightful owners and there is no room for delay or delaying tactics which are usually adopted by infringers in intellectual property theft cases.

The quality of findings of DNDRC Arbitrators for the cases so far resolved by the Center is impressive to say the least.[8] And from personal experience, I can say the staff at the DNDRC are very approachable and take deep interest in guiding new complainants over processes and procedures, who are pondering over the possibility of invoking DNDRC for resolution of their matters.

It is an easy to approach, efficacious and result oriented forum which has resolved more than 40 disputes regarding infringing .pk or domains. A complete list and the findings of each case are available at the Center’s website[9] which in itself is reflective of the efforts of the Center for the protection of intellectual property rights in respect of .pk or domain names in Pakistan.