Freenom, the company behind .tk and other freebie ccTLDs, has had its ICANN registrar accreditation suspended for cybersquatting competing registrars including Go Daddy and Key-Systems.
OpenTLD, its registrar business, has been told it cannot accept new registrations or inbound transfers from July 8 to October 6 or until it provides ICANN with a full list of the names it squatted.
I believe it’s the first time ICANN has suspended a registrar for this reason.
The suspension notice states:
ICANN has found that OpenTLD has engaged in a pattern and practice of trafficking in or use of domain names identical or confusingly similar to a trademark or service mark of a third party in which the Registered Name Holder has no rights or legitimate interest
That’s a long-winded way of saying “massive cybersquatting”.
ICANN is basing its claims on two UDRP cases that Freenom and its CEO, Joost Zuurbier, lost.
According to WIPO panelists in Key-Systems GmbH v. Joost Zuurbier, OpenTLD B.V. and NetEarth Group, Inc. v. Stichting OpenTLD WHOIS Proxy, the company squatted at least seven of its rivals’ trademarks.
The domains were netearthone.biz, rrpproxy.me, key-systems.cc, resellerclub.tk, resellbiz.biz, godaddy.cf and resello.ws.
According to the UDRP decisions, Freenom used the domains to try to entice resellers of the other registrars over to OpenTLD.
It bought the competing registrars’ trademarks as search keywords on Google’s advertising platform, a WIPO panelist found. If you searched Google for Key-Systems trademark “RRPproxy”, for example, you’d get an ad linking to rrpproxy.me.
In some cases the names were registered behind Freenom’s in-house privacy service. In others, Zuurbier and OpenTLD were listed plainly as the registrants.
The WIPO panelists also found that Freenon shirked its duties under the UDRP as registrar, deleting the squatted domains rather than locking them, which essentially amounted to “cyberflight”.
It all looks pretty bad for Freenom, which only gained its accreditation two years ago.
To avoid termination, it has to provide ICANN with a list of all of its trademark infringing names, agree to transfer them to the mark owners or delete them, and bunch of other stuff.