Yesterday’s flood of criticism from big trademark holders has put another question mark next to ICANN’s plan to finalize the new top-level domain application process this year.
Heavy-hitters including Microsoft, AT&T, Time Warner, Adobe and Coca-Cola filed strong criticisms of the trademark-protection mechanisms in version four of the Draft Applicant Guidebook, and urged ICANN to delay the new TLD launch until the perceived weaknesses are addressed.
The concerns were echoed by the Motion Picture Association of America, the International Olympic Committee, Nestle, the International Trademark Association, Lego, the World Intellectual Property Organization, the American Intellectual Property Law Association, News Corp, the BBC and the American Bankers Association, among others.
Two ICANN registrars, MarkMonitor and Com Laude, also threw in with the anti-DAGv4 crowd. Indeed, MarkMonitor appears to have orchestrated at least a part of the trademark owner commentary.
These aren’t insignificant entities, even if some of their comments read like cases of throwing toys out of the pram.
After conversations with others, I know I’m not the only one who believes that this outcry could add delay to the new TLD process.
It certainly casts doubt on comments made by ICANN chair Peter Dengate Thrush in Brussels last month to the effect that the trademark protection portions of the DAG were very close to being finalized.
Trademark owners, including most of the outfits listed above, are concerned that the Uniform Rapid Suspension policy, designed to create a faster and cheaper version of the UDRP, has become bloated and now in some cases could take longer than a UDRP proceeding.
They also don’t think the Trademark Clearinghouse, a database of brands maintained by ICANN that new TLD registries would be obliged to protect, goes far enough to protect their marks. The previously proposed Globally Protected Marks List seems like a preferred alternative.
ICANN currently hopes to have the final guidebook close to readiness by its public meeting in Cartagena, Colombia, this December. Its board of directors will meet over a weekend in September to try to knock the document into shape. I don’t envy that task.
There’s a possibility, of course, that ICANN will soldier on with its time-line regardless. Dengate Thrush indicated in an interview last month that he did not want trademark issues to delay the launch any more than they have already.
Asked about the IP lobby’s concerns with the speed of the URS, he told the World Trademark Review:
I have conceptually no problem with making sure that expedited processes are available. If this one turns out to be too slow, we’ll do something else. What we can’t have is the hold up of the entire process until this is resolved.
It’s wait and see time again, but at the very least I think it’s pretty clear that the new TLD launch timeline is more in doubt today than it was 24 hours ago.