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Trademark Clearinghouse cutting it fine for new gTLD launches

Kevin Murphy, July 16, 2013, 20:14:11 (UTC), Domain Policy

The Trademark+50 rights protection mechanism for new gTLDs is late, potentially complicating the lives of trademark professionals.

During a session with registries and registrars at ICANN 47 in Durban today, executives from IBM and Deloitte, which are managing the Trademark Clearinghouse, laid out their go-live expectations.

The TMCH is the central repository of trademark records that will support the mandatory Sunrise periods and Trademark Claims services during new gTLD launches.

Trademark+50 is the system approved by ICANN earlier this year that will also trigger Claims notices for up to 50 strings trademark owners have won at UDRP or in court.

IBM and Deloitte said that they hope to have a Sunrise sandbox ready for registry testing by the end of July, with a production environment live by August 9 and Claims following a month later.

These were hopes, not commitments, they stressed.

When asked about Trademark+50, an IBM representative acknowledged that it had to be ready before any new gTLD started its Claims period but said it is going to take “months” to implement.

“It’ll be in time, it’ll be before Claims start,” he said.

“It’s probably going to be difficult to reach before the middle of September,” another TMCH exec said. “We know it cannot be the week before Claims starts, it cannot be two weeks or three weeks before Claims starts.”

ICANN still hasn’t finalized its set of requirements for Trademark+50, but the TMCH executives said they hope to get that settled in Durban this week, possibly this evening.

So what’s going to be impact of the expected TMCH go-live schedule? It doesn’t seem likely to delay the launch of the first new gTLDs.

ICANN doesn’t expect the first Trademark Claims period to begin until November, which gives the first registries two months to test their systems against Trademark+50. Tight, but doable.

The real impact might be on trademark owners.

ICANN’s current earliest projection for a new gTLD being delegated is September 5. On that date, the first registry could choose to give trademark owners the 30-day mandatory Sunrise warning.

So the first Sunrise period would start October 5 or thereabouts.

That’s where it starts getting tricky.

See, the TMCH’s early bird pricing ends the day the first Sunrise period begins, so there’s certain to be a mad rush by trademark owners to get their trademarks registered in the first week of October.

Even if many brands aren’t too worried about being protected in the IDN gTLDs that will launch first, they’ll want to secure the discount if they have a large portfolio of trademarks.

And history has shown most trademark owners leave Sunrise registrations to the last minute. That’s why pretty much every Sunrise period to date has been extended — the registry can’t cope with the influx.

In the case of the TMCH, however, they’re also going to be battering a Trademark+50 system that’s been in production for no more than a couple of weeks and will, software being software, likely be full of bugs.

It could get messy.

“When IP owners find out that this is not going to be in production a week or two or a few weeks before the first [new gTLD] goes into Claims, they’re going to go ballistic,” Neustar VP Jeff Neuman said at the session today.

At the very least, it looks like trademark owners will have only a brief window to add their extra strings — which could amount to hundreds in many cases — to their TMCH records before the first Sunrise.

That scenario is mostly speculation, of course, based on a first delegation date that ICANN admits is “hypothetical” and the TMCH’s tentative schedule outlined today.

IBM and Deloitte execs are expected to provided a fuller explanation of the current state of play during a dedicated session in Durban on Wednesday at 11am local time.

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