Given the global nature of the internet and the generic domain name system, the UDRP has tried to accommodate the wide range of languages spoken by respondents.  Paragraph 11 of the UDRP Rules states that “unless otherwise agreed by the Parties, or specified otherwise in the Registration Agreement, 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.”

Unpacking UDRP Rule 11

The registration agreement (sometimes called a “Customer Agreement” or “Terms and Conditions”) is consented to by the Respondent with the click of the “I Agree” button at the time it set up its registrar account or when it registered or acquired the domain in dispute.

According to UDRP Rule 11,  the language used in this agreement is typically the language in which the UDRP case must be filed. The only exceptions are where the agreement, itself, states that another language can be used or where the UDRP Panel decides, for certain reasons, that another language is appropriate.

These other reasons can include circumstances where the evidence shows that the Respondent understands a language other than that used in the agreement.  For example, if the agreement is in Russian but a Complainant requests that the case proceed in English, the Panel may consider facts such as any prior correspondence between the parties in the English language, whether the website at the disputed domain shows content in English, whether the dispute domain is made up of words which only exist in English, and whether Complainant is a globally famous company that operates primarily in the English language.

Applying UDRP Rule 11

In a recent case before the Czech Arbitration Court (CAC or Complainant Arcelormittal S.A. was informed that the registration agreement for the disputed domain was written in the Russian language.  Nevertheless, it submitted a request that the case proceed in English because the “alphabet used for the registration of the domain name is not the Russian one. Thus, … the Respondent doesn’t understand only the Russian language, but also at least the English language.” The CAC accepted the English language complaint and the language request and appointed a single-member Panel to hear the case.

The Panel noted that, apart from the fact that the disputed domain and its WHOIS information appear in the Latin script used for English, Complainant submitted no other evidence that the Respondent understands any language other than Russian. The fact that the content of the website at the disputed domain is entirely in Russian similarly does not support Complainant’s request.

In the end, the Panel concluded that “the Respondent should have a fair opportunity to reply to the Complaint which did not happen in this case as the Complainant failed to prove the Respondent can understand [the] language in which the Complaint was filed. It is therefore impossible to continue the administrative proceeding.”  It is unclear whether the Panel left the door open for resubmission of the dispute but the CAC has listed the Complaint as “Rejected.”

Having successfully filed quite a number of language requests I must agree with the Panel in this case.  It requires more than a simple assertion to support the proposition that a respondent can understand a language other than that used in the registration agreement.  A better case is made where at least three pieces of evidence indicate that a respondent is multilingual.  Failing that, it is likely more than worth the cost of obtaining a translation to avoid the risk of having one’s case rejected with a questionable ability to file again and get it right the next time.

Steve Levy

Senior Advisor at FairWinds Partners
It can be difficult tackling domain name and social media infringement without the right expertise. Steve covers UDRP cases, URS cases, and all other acronyms and topics related to cybersquatting and usersquatting.
Steve Levy
UDRP Spotlight: Watch Your Language

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