While finding the owner of a domain name has traditionally been an easy process, as of May 25, 2018, access for WHOIS information has changed. In light of the General Data Protection Regulation (“GDPR”) adopted by the European Union (“EU”) in April 2016, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (“ICANN”) has had to attempt to form new policies to protect registrant information. The Temporary Specification for gTLD Registration Data (“Temporary Specification”) is ICANN’s attempt to comply with the GDPR while maintaining the WHOIS system by restricting most personal data. While the personal data will not be publicly available without some effort, those with a legitimate interest in the contact information will be able to request such information through their domain registrar. They may also be able to contact the registrant through anonymized email or web forms.
These changes are really hitting home for trademark owners who may not able to file a complaint directly against the domain name registrant due to the information being restricted. While not all WHOIS information is unavailable, complainants in most cases will have extra steps that they must take in order to file a complaint. If the information is not available on WHOIS, the complainant will have to verify that the information is not publicly available in the complaint. After the complaint has been filed, FORUM will contact the registrar to obtain the restricted contact information. For Uniform Domain-Name Dispute-Resolution Policy (“UDRP”) cases, the complainant will have to amend the complaint with the newly received registrant contact information. For Uniform Rapid Suspension Systems (“URS”) cases, complaints may not be amended to include additional registrant information under the URS Procedure and Rules, however, the Temporary Specification allows FORUM to add registrant information after the complaint is filed.
The Expedited Policy Development Process (“EPDP”) initiated by ICANN will consider the adoption of the temporary specification and will likely include a discussion of a standardized access model for the restricted registration information. For any questions, you can contact the Director of Arbitration for FORUM, Renee Fossen by mail at 6465 Wayzata Blvd., Suite 480, Minneapolis, MN 55405, by phone at 952-516-6456, or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.