by Jeremy Malcolm, Internet lawyer
Many readers will be aware that a new registry has recently taken control of most of Australia's domain names (domain names ending in .au). Along with this change has come a new procedure for resolving disputes about domain names without going to court.
The procedure is available to anyone whose name (either a business name or a personal name) has been used by another person for a domain name, where that domain name has been registered or used in bad faith. The procedure is conducted by an arbitrator and the cost starts from $1500 (not cheap, but cheaper than going to court).
So far, there have been no decisions under this new policy, but there have been many decisions under the equivalent policy for generic top-level domain names such as .com. Many of these decisions are regarded as having gone too far against domain name holders, even prohibiting names like "companyname-sucks.com". Time will tell if Australia's policy will be applied in the same way.
Perhaps more interesting than the existence of this policy is the scope it suggests for other disputes to be resolved in the same way. Why pay many thousands of dollars to go to court if an on-line dispute resolution provider can provide the same service faster and less expensively? Expect to see some new developments in this area over the coming years.