Trademark interests and new gTLD applicants are at odds about trademark protection — again — following the ICANN meeting in Toronto two weeks ago.
In a welcomed, not-before-time show of cooperation, the Intellectual Property Constituency and Business Constituency submitted to ICANN a bulleted list of requests for improved rights protection mechanisms.
The list is, for the most part, not particularly egregious — calling for a permanent Trademark Claims service and a Uniform Rapid Suspension service that meets its cost goals, for example.
But the New TLD Applicants Group (NTAG), an observer component of the Registries Constituency, has dismissed it out of hand, anyway, saying that the time for policy changes is over.
Here’s the IPC/BC list:
1. Extend Sunrise Launch Period from 30 to 60 days with a standardized process.
2. Extend the TMCH and Claims Notices for an indefinite period; ensure the process is easy to use, secure, and stable.
3. Complete the URS as a low cost alternative and improve its usefulness – if necessary, ICANN could underwrite for an initial period.
4. Implement a mechanism for trademark owners to prevent second-level registration of their marks (exact matches, plus character strings previously determined to have been abusively registered or used) across all registries, upon payment of a reasonable fee, with appropriate safeguards for registrants with a legitimate right or interest.
5. Validate contact information for registrants in WHOIS.
6. All registrars active in new gTLD registrations must adhere to an amended RAA for all gTLD registrations they sponsor.
7. Enforce compliance of all registry commitments for Standard applications.
8. Expand TM Claims service to cover at least strings previously found to have been abusively registered or used.
Most of these requests are not entirely new, and some have been rejected by the ICANN policy-development process and its board of directors before.
The NTAG points out as much in a letter to ICANN management last week, which says that new gTLD applicants paid their application fees based on promises in the Applicant Guidebook, which should not be changed.
Many of the BC & IPC proposed policy changes have been considered and rejected in no fewer than four different processes and numerous prior Board decisions. Indeed, many go far beyond the recommendations of the IRT, which was comprised almost exclusively of trademark attorneys. These last-minute policy recommendations amount to just another bite of the same apple that already has been bitten down to its core.
The new gTLD policy development process is over. Applicants relied on the policies in the final Guidebook in making business decisions on whether to apply. At the time that ICANN accepted applications and fees from applicants, ICANN and applicants entered into binding agreements. ICANN should not change these agreements unilaterally without extraordinary reason and especially not when it would materially harm the counterparties to the agreements.
The Applicant Guidebook, as it happens, asks applicants to explicitly acknowledge that ICANN may make “reasonable
updates and changes” to the rules, even after the application has been submitted.
But if applicants reckon changes would create a “material hardship”, ICANN is obliged to “work with Applicant in good faith to attempt to make reasonable accommodations in order to mitigate any negative consequences”