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Businesses may call for more new gTLD trademark protections

Kevin Murphy, December 31, 2011, 10:52:40 (UTC), Domain Policy

It’s open season on ICANN at the moment, and as the number of letters opposing the new gTLD program flittering between Washington DC and Marina del Rey becomes confusingly voluminous many groups think they’ve found another opportunity to demand last-minute changes.

ICANN’s Business Constituency is now considering making several recommendations for “critical improvements” to protect trademark holders in the new gTLD universe.

While the recommendations are still under discussion, they could include adding the option to transfer a domain name to a brand owner after a successful Uniform Rapid Suspension complaint.

This would prove unpopular among domain investors and others as it would increase the likelihood of the untested URS being used as a replacement for the already controversial UDRP, potentially increasing the risk of reverse domain name hijacking.

The BC is also discussing whether to ask for a “permanent registry block” feature to be added the forthcoming Trademark Clearinghouse, enabling brand owners to block their trademarks from all new gTLDs for a one-time fee in much the same way as ICM Registry enabled in the .xxx sunrise.

The Coalition Against Domain Name Abuse made a similar request to ICANN last week.

The idea is unlikely to find favor because it would essentially grant trademark owners exclusivity over strings, a right not usually given to them by trademark law.

Other BC discussion topics include making the Trademark Clearinghouse permanent (instead of just running for the first 60 days of each new gTLD) and putting a firm date on the opening of the second-round application window, a popular request from brand owners.

Much like 13th-hour requests originating in the At-Large Advisory Committee, the BC’s position is likely to be substantially revised before it is submitted to ICANN officially.

While ICANN chairman Steve Crocker told .nxt this week that there are no plans to delay or rate-limit the new gTLD program, it’s less clear whether the Applicant Guidebook is still open for the kinds of substantial amendments now being discussed by the business community.

But my hunch is that, regardless of the political pressure being brought to bear on ICANN in the US, the new gTLD program is going to launch on January 12 in more or less its current form.

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Comments (4)

  1. gpmgroup says:

    The idea is unlikely to find favor because it would essentially grant trademark owners exclusivity over strings, a right not usually given to them by trademark law.

    How is ICANN selling or auctioning such exclusivity in the root instead of the second level different?

    What a mess!

    • Kevin Murphy says:

      It is messy, I’ll give you that.

      But there are objection mechanisms, remember. Applying for a new gTLD is a lot more complicated than simply paying a fee and showing a trademark certificate in order to block that word everywhere forever, which is what a centralized Trademark Clearinghouse block service could basically amount to.

      • gpmgroup says:

        It’s the principle that matters not the obstacles put in the way to limit the damage.

        .xxx and .jobs illustrate exactly why getting this right before implementation matters – millions of dollars squandered in litigation.

        The problem for ICANN is their whole new gTLD proposal is riddled with similar flaws and inequities which have been either ignored or covered over with a series of policy sticking plasters in order to get the proposal pushed through.

        All this does is add layers of unnecessary complexity and cost, without solving the real problems, and in turn making the innovation ICANN claims it craves from new gTLDs more and more improbable.

        Not good.

  2. avri doria says:

    I am wondering has the Business Constituency taken this grand new idea of their’s to their partners in Non Contracted Party’s House in the GNSO or to the g-council itself to get support? Though I do not agree with ALAC’s pending motion on advice regarding a delay, at least they are putting it through an ALAC process to determine whether there there is at least rough consensus for carring it beyond the ALAC. Has the BC rid itself of those other troublesome constituencies in the GNSO and decided to act on its own outside of its proper role in the GNSO? Well, I guess the IPC got away with it in the past, so there is precedent. But really, what cheek these people have!

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