Alternate root player Name.Space has sued ICANN for trademark infringement and anti-competitive behavior, saying “insiders” have conspired to keep it out of the new gTLD program.
If successful, the suit would prevent dozens of new gTLD applicants from having their applications approved.
The lawsuit, filed in California this week, follows a warning the company fired at ICANN this March.
While only ICANN is named as a defendant, the suit alleges that the new gTLD program was crafted by and is dominated by “ICANN insiders” and “industry titans”.
It wants an injunction preventing ICANN delegating any of the 189 gTLD strings that it claims it has rights to.
It also fingers several current and former ICANN directors, including current and former chairs Steve Crocker and Peter Dengate Thrush, over their alleged conflicts of interest.
Name.Space has been operating 482 diverse TLDs — such as .news, .sucks, and .mail — in a lightly used alternate root system since 1996.
Most people can’t access these zones and are unaware that they exist.
The company applied to have 118 of these strings added to the root in ICANN’s “proof of concept” gTLD expansion in 2000, when the application fee was $50,000, but was unsuccessful.
Now, the company claims the new gTLD program is “an attack on name.space’s business model and a mean by which to create and maintain market power in the TLD markets”.
The complaint (pdf) states:
Rather than adopting a procedure to account for the pending 2000 Application and facilitate the expansion of TLD providers in the DNS, ICANN has adopted a procedure so complex and expensive that it once again effectively prohibited newcomers from competing. It instead has permitted participation solely by ICANN insiders and industry titans.
If it had applied for all 118 again in this year’s round, it would have cost almost $22 million (though it would have qualified for an $83,000 discount on a single bid).
Name.Space is asking for damages and an injunction preventing ICANN from approving 189 gTLDs that match those it currently operates in its alternate root.
The full list of affected applications is attached to the complaint.