Some of the enhanced trademark protection mechanisms being discussed currently by the IP lobby seem unlikely to be adopted by ICANN any time soon, if a response to Congress from new CEO Fadi Chehadé is any guide.
In a letter published tonight, Chehadé appears to rule out both the inclusion of ‘brand+keyword’ records in the Trademark Clearinghouse and an extension of the Trademark Claims service beyond 60 days.
These are two of the common demands to emerge recently from ICANN’s Business Consituency, Intellectual Property Constituency, and the so-called “brand summit” proposal.
On extending the Trademark Claims service — which alerts trademark owners when somebody registers a domain exactly matching their mark — beyond the current 60 days, he wrote:
For the first round of new gTLDs, ICANN is not in a position to unilaterally require today an extension of the 60-day minimum length of the trademark claims service. The 60-day period was reached through a multi-year, extensive process with the ICANN community. One reason for this is that there are existing IP Watch services that address this needs. Those community members that designed the Trademark Claims process were cognizant of existing protections and sought to fill gaps, not replace existing services and business models.
While this obviously does not rule out an extension of Trademark Claims, it’s pretty clear from the letter that ICANN has no plans to do so without some form of community consent.
On the matter of brand+keyword protections, seen by the trademark community as a crucial component of a strong anti-cybersquatting regime, Chehadé wrote:
It is important to note that the Trademark Clearinghouse is intended be a repository for existing legal rights, and not an adjudicator of such rights or creator of new rights. Extending the protections offered through the Trademark Clearinghouse to any form of name (such as the mark + generic term suggested in your letter) would potentially expand rights beyond those granted under trademark law and put the Clearinghouse in the role of making determinations as to the scope of particular rights.
He goes on to say that providing enhanced rights protection mechanisms is optional for new gTLD registries and may be one way that they can competitively differentiate themselves.
Indeed, large applicants such as Donuts, Uniregistry and Google say they will offer RPMs that go above and beyond what is required by ICANN.
Extended trademark claims and the brand+keyword protections are two of the changes to the current proposed mesh of mechanisms that the trademark community has found common ground on recently.
At the Melbourne IT trademark summit in Washington DC earlier this week, these two areas were among those that appeared to have the most consensus.
However, applicants for mass-market gTLDs are fervently opposed to changes being made to the Applicant Guidebook at this late stage.
Jon Nevett, co-founder of Donuts, said at the Melbourne IT event that “the Applicant Guidebook at this point should be deemed closed”.
He pointed out that, having paid ICANN about $350 million in application fees, applicants should be considered contracted parties and have their expectations respected.