A California judge had denied Donuts’ eleventh-hour attempt to delay today’s .web gTLD auction.
In a ruling late yesterday, Judge Percy Anderson rejected the company’s request for an emergency temporary restraining order preventing ICANN from selling off the premium gTLD.
This means the auction is pretty much certain to go ahead starting at 1300 UTC — that’s 6am local time for ICANN — today.
Its ultimate goal appears to have been to somehow force .web to private settlement, where all the unsuccessful applicants could get a multi-million dollar pay-off.
Anderson dismissed the request for a multitude of largely technical legal reasons surrounding the timing of Donuts’ request.
He said that, had ICANN not already filed its opposition to the TRO, he would have ruled against Donuts simply for failure to formally serve ICANN in a timely fashion.
But on the merits, he ruled that there was not a strong likelihood of Donuts winning a full trial, due to the statements of two NDC executives, who swore on oath there had been no change to the company’s ownership or management.
Anderson wrote (pdf):
Based on the strength of ICANN’s evidence submitted in opposition to the Application for TRO, and the weakness of Plaintiff’s efforts to enforce vague terms contained in the ICANN bylaws and Applicant Guidebook, the Court concludes that Plaintiff has failed to establish that it is likely to succeed on the merits, raise serious issues, or show that the balance of hardships tips sharply in its favor on its breach of contract, breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, and negligence claims. Moreover, because the results of the auction could be unwound, Plaintiff has not met its burden to establish that it will suffer irreparable harm in the absence of the preliminary injunctive relief it seeks. The Court additionally concludes that the public interest does not favor the postponement of the auction.
He did give Donuts leave to amend its request, but given that the auction is due to start today before California office/court hours, that courtesy seems moot.
It’s likely that by the end of the day we will know how much the .web, and possibly .webs, domains fetched. We’re certainly looking at eight figures for .web, in my view.
Some have guessed prices in the ballpark of $50 million, based on the $41.5 million paid for .shop earlier this year.
It seems at least seven of the eight applicants in the auction will be bidding blind, strategically speaking.
Circumstantial evidence suggests that NDC does indeed have one or more secret sugar daddies supporting its bid, insulated from public view by NDC’s corporate structure.
The applicants for .web are NDC, Radix, Donuts, Schlund, Afilias, Google and Web.com. Vistaprint’s bid for .webs is also in the auction.
ICANN currently has over $100 million in a bank account, segregated from its operating funds, from previous last-resort auctions.