Dot-brand gTLDs could get big exemptions to the standard new gTLD Registry Agreement under new rules published for public comment by ICANN over the weekend.
The proposed changes were negotiated by ICANN and the Brand Registry Group, a coalition of dot-brand applicants that one day plans to become a formal part of ICANN’s policy-making structure.
“The changes will allow trademark owners who have applied for new TLDs to promote and maintain trust in their .Brand registries,” the BRG said in a statement supporting the changes.
Dot-brands would be completely exempt from the standard Code of Conduct, which requires registries to treat all accredited registrars equally.
They’d be explicitly allowed to work with only one trusted registrar.
Given that dot-brands are all essentially single-registrants spaces (limited to the brand owner, its affiliates and trademark licensees) it makes sense to eschew the usual competitive registrar market.
Brand owners were also very worried about ICANN’s right to re-delegate defunct gTLDs, including dot-brands, to new registry operators, which could be seen as extreme brand dilution.
So the proposed RA amendment would also prevent ICANN from redelegating dot-brands for two years after the agreement expires, unless there’s a compelling public-interest reason to do so.
If ICANN chose to redelegate during that period, the former dot-brand would be able to object.
Nothing would stop a third party applying for the vacated gTLD in a subsequent application round.
The changes appear to prevent brand registries from claiming exclusive rights to gTLD strings in perpetuity, while still giving them breathing space to wind down and attempt to avoid brand confusion.
The definition of a “brand” seems to have been written in order to prevent gaming by companies with trademarks on generic strings.
To qualify to become a dot-brand, a registry would have to prove that its gTLD string is a trademark it owns for non-domain industry they’re already playing in. Strings starting with dots would be excluded.
ICANN would determine which gTLDs are eligible, and would be able to revoke the dot-brand status if the registry changed its business plans in future.
The proposal has been negotiated by ICANN legal staff and the BRG and has not yet been approved by the New gTLD Program Committee or the ICANN board.
It’s open for public comment until January 31, here.