Domain Name Disputes: .CA and CIRA

by Shaya Silber

Everyone has a website these days. People are creating websites for personal use and commercial use. Having a web presence is essential for business today, and this is not likely to go away any time soon. With the surge in websites, many domain names are being registered. Some domain registrations are for immediate use. In other instances, however, people register websites for future use, either because they believe that the domain name will offer a valuable business opportunity, or they may be able to sell it for a profit.

For Canadian businesses, having a dot-ca domain name (i.e. zvulony.ca) can be important for their online presence and SEO strategies. Dot-ca domains are administered by the Canadian Internet Registration Authority (CIRA).  CIRA has several requirements before someone can register a dot-ca domain name. For example, the registrant must meet certain Canadian presence requirements. Furthermore, CIRA’s policy prohibits the registration of domains in bad faith, or domain registrations that are intended for future sale (at a profit) to a person or business with rights in that name (i.e. registration of cocacola.ca to sell it back to the Coca Cola company for a profit).

Disputes over coveted domain names are on the rise. When an amicable settlement cannot be reached, a complainant has two options.

Court Action

Depending on the situation, a complainant may opt to pursue a court action. There are pros and cons to pursuing a court action.

The advantage of a court action is that in addition to obtaining an injunction or transfer, a complainant can also seek damages. For example, if the use of a domain name constitutes trademark infringement, a court may award damages for said infringement. Furthermore, if control of the domain by an unauthorized party constitutes breach of contract, a court action may be the appropriate route.

The disadvantage to pursing a court action can be time and money. In most instances, a court action will cost significantly more than a CIRA arbitration. Furthermore, a court action will take more time than arbitration, which may not be practical in today’s fast-paced business environment.

CIRA Dispute Resolution

A more practical option may be CIRA’s dispute resolution mechanism. CIRA has appointed two dispute resolution providers in Canada to oversee arbitrations of dot-ca domain names.

The advantage to CIRA’s dispute resolution is that the matter can be resolved in a much shorter time frame than a court action. Furthermore, because the time frame is much shorter, and the process is a lot more simplified than a court action, it requires less preparation of legal documents and eliminates frequent court appearances, which results in less fees passed on to the complainant.

The disadvantage to CIRA’s arbitration process is that a complainant cannot seek damages.  Furthermore, the complainant must pay for the fees required for the arbitration.