ICANN CEO Fadi Chehade today admitted that he badly handled recent discussions about improving trademark protections in the new gTLD program, saying he made a “mistake”.
The remarks came during his speech at a meeting of registries and registrars in Amsterdam this afternoon.
The address, which along with a Q&A lasted an hour, was remarkable for Chehade’s passion and candor, and his apparently conscious decision to portray himself as an industry man.
But he arguably risked alienating the parts of the ICANN community that would certainly not define themselves as part of the “industry”, such as the intellectual property community.
This was no more evident as when he discussed the controversial trademark protection “strawman” proposals.
“We’re moving very fast at ICANN now,” he said. “You almost have no idea how fast we’re moving. We are opening so many new things and fixing so many things, that frankly should have been done for a long time at ICANN, that the speed at which we’re moving is making me, and sometimes my team, make mistakes.”
“I made one big mistake in the last few months,” he said. “I didn’t quite fully understand… this concept of ‘trying to take a second bite at the apple’, when I engaged with the Trademark Clearinghouse discussions.”
That’s a reference to meetings in Brussels and Los Angeles late last year, convened by Chehade at the request of the Intellectual Property Constituency and Business Constituency.
These meetings came up with the strawman proposals, which would create (arguably) new rights protection mechanisms and bolster others in favor of trademark owners.
Registries, registrars and new gTLD applicants complained that the IPC/BC proposals had already been considered multiple times by ICANN and the community and discarded.
Apparently Chehade has now come around to their way of thinking, helped in part by Non-Commercial User Constituency member Maria Farrell’s complaint about the strawman process.
“I frankly didn’t fully understand until I went through the process, and appreciated what people were actually trying to do,” Chehade said. “So, okay, big learning experience for me… I take it, I move on and hopefully I won’t make that mistake again.”
What does this mean for the strawman? Well, it’s not looking great.
While the proposals are still open for public comment, at some point ICANN is going to have to decide which bits it wants to adopt as “implementation” and which are more suited to policy development.
After today’s comments, I’d expect Chehade to be less inclined to push for the former.