New gTLD applicant Booking.com has filed an Independent Review Process complaint against ICANN.
ICANN and Booking.com attorney Flip Petillion of Crowell & Moring confirmed the filing with DI this evening. Earlier Belgian newspaper reports of a full-on lawsuit appear to be inaccurate.
The IRP — ICANN’s final appeals process, designed to avoid lawsuits — is related to the .hotels contention set.
Booking.com’s uncontested application for .hotels was placed into a contention set with Despegar Online’s bid for .hoteis (the Portuguese translation) by ICANN’s independent String Similarity Panel in February 2013.
The panel ruled that the two strings are too confusingly similar to coexist on the internet, due to the similarity between the letters I and L.
That means the two applicants either had to resolve their differences privately, which apparently hasn’t happened, or enter into a potentially expensive ICANN auction of last resort.
Booking.com seemingly wants to avoid that auction, hence the IRP.
It’s the second IRP to be filed by a new gTLD applicant in this round, after DotConnectAfrica’s January filing.
ICANN tells me the IRP documents will be posted on its web site later today.