The UDRP applies to domain name disputes concerning all the most common gTLDS as well as several ccTLDs. With such widespread international applicability, the choice of language may certainly become an issue in a UDRP proceeding.
Rule 11(a) of the Rules for Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy states: “the language of the administrative proceeding shall be the language of the Registration Agreement, subject to the authority of the Panel to determine otherwise, having regard to the circumstances of the administrative proceeding.” A recent UDRP ruling from WIPO touches on this rule, as well as explains the underlying justifications for the rule.
In a recent case initiated by Lego A/S and ruled on by WIPO, Lego contested the registration of <mindstormslego.com> by a Korean entity, accomplished through a Korean registrar. Lego filed the UDRP complaint to WIPO in English, despite the fact that the registration agreement was in Korean. In support of its request that English be the language of the proceedings, Lego argued that
- the respondent had the ability to understand English as the domain name contained “mindstorms”, an English word construction
- the content of the website connected to the disputed domain name was in English
Despite the fact that no response was submitted, the panel made a decision on the language issue, and in doing so identified three factors which capture the “spirit” of Rule 11:
- ensure fairness in the selection of language by giving full consideration to the parties’ level of comfort with each language;
- the expenses to be incurred and the possibility of delay in the proceeding in the event translations are required; and
- other relevant factors
In this case, the Panel reasoned that Lego “is not able to communicate in Korean”, and for this reason, Lego would be delayed in filing the action and incur substantial expenses for translation. On the basis of these arguments and the spirit of Rule 11, the panel ruled in favor of English as the language of proceedings.
It is notable that a WIPO panel found a multi-national company with resources such as Lego is “not able” to communicate in a particular language. Surely, a company such as Lego is more able to communicate in Korean than the average Korean respondent is able to communicate in English. Another WIPO decision involving a similar factual situation held that a Korean respondent had “no difficulties” in communicating in English, based solely on the fact that the respondent previously wrote letters in English to the German complainant in negotiations. The panel in that case ultimately accepted submissions in English and Korean “in the interest of fairness”.
It seems that despite the language requirements of the UDRP, English complaints are accepted despite the fact that they may be different from the language of the registration agreement. All that needs to be shown is some hardship in filing a UDRP complaint in the language of the registration agreement, or delay in filing caused by it. And if a multinational company such as Lego can be found to have a hardship in filing a complaint in a non-English language, it seems companies smaller and possessing less resources should also be found to have a hardship in filing a UDRP complaint in a non-English language.