ICANN worried about defensive gTLDs

Kevin Murphy, February 7, 2012, 12:29:34 (UTC), Domain Policy

Why is ICANN so misunderstood?

That’s the question at the heart of a public comment period into concerns about “defensive” new generic top-level domain applications that the organization opened up last night.

ICANN wants to know why so many companies seem to think they’ll need to apply for a dot-brand gTLD even though they don’t want one.

there are reports that parties believe that they will need to submit defensive gTLD applications to protect their trademarks, regardless of whether they are interested in using or developing a gTLD.

ICANN seeks public comment on the sources of this perception and how it can be addressed.

The comment period serves three purposes — it’s designed to raise awareness about rights protection mechanisms as well as soliciting input about defensive applications.

It will also let ICANN show the US Congress, which is worried about this kind of thing, that it’s doing something to address the problem.

So why are so many people worried about the perceived need to defensively apply for dot-brands?

The main answer, I think, is pretty straightforward:

The Applicant Guidebook is 349 pages long.

Hardly anybody has read the damn thing, not even some of the “experts” that persist on appearing in the media to complain about numeric gTLDs or to confidently predict GE and LG will apply for dot-brands.

So what do people do? They get somebody else who has read it to explain what it means.

These somebody elses are either consultants and registry providers, which are financially incentivized to get companies to apply, or they’re organizations that want the whole program stopped, which are not above deliberately misrepresenting the rules in order to whip up outrage.

I’m not casting every consultant in the same light here, of course. Many will turn away business if it’s not a good fit, but let’s not pretend that there hasn’t been scaremongering.

And let’s remember that for most regular companies registering a domain name is not an opportunity, it’s a headache. It’s at best a minor irritation and at worst a costly shakedown.

That thinking has clearly translated into the new gTLD space.

Poorly informed people think they’re being asked to register a very expensive domain name, and in their experience registering a domain name is a defensive measure 99% of the time.

Because ICANN has spent the last six months painstakingly avoiding saying anything positive about new gTLDs, it’s been left to the consultants and registries to try to explain the opportunities.

They’re understandably looked on with suspicion, and not only because of the aforementioned distrust of the industry – this new gTLD thing is unproven and there’s a perception that previous gTLDs have “failed” because you don’t see a .biz every time you turn on the TV.

Anyway, speaking of shakedowns, DomainIncite PRO subscribers have access to an in-depth analysis of scenarios in which “defensive” applications may and may not be appropriate. Read it here.

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Comments (3)

  1. Jose Rasco says:

    Nicely put Kevin. I’ve wondered the same thing, why all the confusion? I would include another problem is poor and incomplete reporting by some media that doesn’t bother to research the subject.

    • Kevin Murphy says:

      Indeed.

      I’ve noticed it getting better recently, but the media in general has been jumping to far too many conclusions about what will and will not be possible in the new gTLD program.

  2. I made similar points in my comments to ICANN. I look at some good reasons and bad reasons to apply for a .brand defensively.

    Basically, if you have *existing* rights, you are well-protected. If you want to play dog-in-the-manger just to prevent someone else from doing something with a name in a space where you don’t have rights, you have to apply to ICANN and pay the money. I don’t have a problem with that.

    Antony

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