A small New York company has warned new gTLD applicants that it owns 482 top-level domain strings and that ICANN has “no authority” to award them to anybody else.
Name.Space claims it has ownership rights to potentially valuable gTLDs including several likely to be applied for by others, such as .shop, .nyc, .sex, .hotel and .green.
It’s been operating hundreds of “gTLDs” in a lightly-used alternate DNS root system since 1996.
Now the company has filed for trademark protection for several of these strings and has said that it will apply for several through the ICANN new gTLD program.
But Name.Space, which says it has just “tens of thousands” of domain registrations in its alternate root, is also claiming that it already owns all 482 strings in the ICANN root too.
“What we did is put them on notice that they cannot give any of these 482 names to anyone else,” CEO Alex Mashinsky told DomainIncite. “These names predate ICANN. They don’t have authority under US law to issue these gTLDs to third parties.”
“We’re putting out there the 482 names to make sure other people don’t risk their money applying for things ICANN cannot legally give them,” he added.
It’s a slightly ridiculous position. Anyone can set up an alternative DNS root, fill it with dictionary words and start selling names – the question is whether anyone actually uses it.
However, putting that aside, Name.Space may have a legitimate quarrel with ICANN anyway.
It applied for a whopping 118 gTLDs in ICANN’s initial “test-bed” round in 2000, which produced the likes of .biz, .info, .name and .museum.
While ICANN did not select any of Name.Space’s proposed names for delegation, it did not “reject” its application outright either.
This is going to cause problems. Name.Space is not the only unsuccessful 2000 applicant that remains pissed off 12 years later that ICANN has not closed the book on its application.
Image Online Design, an alternate root provider and 2000 applicant, has a claim to .web that is likely to emerge as an issue for other applicants after the May 2 reveal date.
These unsuccessful candidates are unhappy that they’ve been repeatedly told that their old applications were not rejected, and with the privileges ICANN has given them in the current Applicant Guidebook.
ICANN will give any unsuccessful bidder from the 2000 round an $86,000 discount on its application fees, provided they apply for the same string they applied for the first time.
However, like any other applicant this time around, they also have to sign away their rights to sue.
And the $86,000 discount is only redeemable against one gTLD application, not 118.
“We applied for 118 and we would like to get the whole 118,” said Mashinsky.
ICANN is not going to give Name.Space what it wants, of course, so it’s not clear how this is going to play out.
The company could file Legal Rights Objections against applications for strings it thinks it owns, or it could take matters further.
While the company is not yet making legal threats, any applicants for gTLDs on Name.Space’s list should be aware that they do have an additional risk factor to take into account.
“We hope we can resolve all of this amicably,” said Mashinsky. “We’re not trying to throw a monkey wrench into the process.”