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.secure applicant claims NCC stole her idea

Kevin Murphy, May 14, 2012, 18:42:29 (UTC), Domain Registries

Domain Security Company CEO Mary Iqbal claims that NCC Group took many of her ideas for a high-security .secure top-level domain following unproductive investment talks.

Iqbal is also hinting at “potential future litigation” over the issue.

The surprising claims, made in emails to DI today, follow the announcement last week that a new NCC subsidiary, Artemis Internet, will also apply to ICANN for .secure.

“NCC Group has taken many of the security measures outlined in the Domain Security Company LLC security plan and incorporated them into the NCC Group’s proposed security measures,” Iqbal said.

Artemis chief technology officer Alex Stamos, a veteran security industry technologist, has dismissed the allegations as “completely ridiculous”.

“The only reason I know she is applying is because we did some Google searches when we were putting together our announcement,” he said.

Iqbal claims she was first contacted by NCC in January this year to talk about signing up for data escrow services – one of the technical services all new gTLD applicants need.

However, she says these talks escalated into discussions about a possible NCC investment in Domain Security Company, during which she shared the company’s security and business plans.

She said in an email:

These disclosures were made based on assurances from the NCC Group that the NCC Group was not then involved with any other applications for a secure Top Level Domain. Specific assurances were also given that the NCC Group was not involved with any other potential application for a .SECURE Top Level Domain.

But Stamos said that he’s been working on .secure at NCC since late last year, and he has no knowledge of any talks about investing in Iqbal’s company.

“All I know is that she talked to one of our salespeople about escrow,” he said. “I’ve never seen a business plan or security plan.”

Emails from an NCC executive sent to Iqbal in January and forwarded to DI by Iqbal today appear to be completely consistent with a sales call.

Iqbal said she has emails demonstrating that the talks went further, but she declined to provide them “since I may have to use it in any potential future litigation”.

Stamos pointed out that if NCC was in the habit with competing with its escrow clients, it would have applied for considerably more gTLDs than just .secure.

Artemis is proposing a significant technology development as part of its .secure bid, he said: the Domain Policy Framework, which he outlines on his personal blog here.

He added that Artemis is happy to compete with other .secure applicants – he evidently expects more to emerge – but on the merits of the application rather than “spurious claims”.

Domain Security Company “already has a very troubling history of using the legal process to overcome problems that should be based on merit”, he said.

That’s a reference to the company’s almost-successful attempt to secure US trademarks on .secure and .bank, in spite of the US trademark office’s rules against granting trademarks on TLDs.

Expect more stories like this to emerge about other gTLDs after ICANN’s Big Reveal of the applicant list next month.

Whether her claims have any merit or not, Iqbal’s not the first to claim that another applicant stole her idea, and she certainly won’t be the last.

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Comments (7)

  1. Mary says:

    Alex Stamos himself acknowledges that there were sales calls that took place between Domain Security Company LLC and the NCC Group about data escrow services for the .SECURE Top Level Domain. If the NCC Group was already involved in a .SECURE bid, wouldn’t it have been unethical for them to engage in conversations with Domain Security Company LLC about data escrow services for .SECURE? Conversely, if they were not already planning their own bid for .SECURE, then shouldn’t they credit the idea and the plan for .SECURE to Domain Security Company LLC?

    Either way, something fishy is going on at the NCC Group.

  2. Rubens Kuhl says:

    Data escrow services for TLDs don’t require knowing the applied for strings. We’ve negotiated with data escrow providers and hired one provider without ever telling them what strings we will apply for.

  3. John Berryhill says:

    ICANN should observe the behavior of TLD applicants, and their willingness to sling legal threats at the drop of a hat, and carefully consider whether the type of behavior demonstrated by those applicants is or is not representative of entities with which ICANN desires to enter into a long term relationship.

    Ms. Iqbal has elsewhere argued that her ill-conceived US trademark filing confers upon her a “Constitutional right” to be assigned a .secure TLD.

    But let’s have a look at the larger picture here. Ms. Iqbal is saying, “Our organization is in the habit of disclosing confidential and proprietary business plans in the absence of any formal non-disclosure, non-use or non-competition agreement and, by the way, we want to run a .secure TLD because we are well qualified in the management of sensitive data.”

    Clearly, if DSC desires to present itself as competent in the management of secure data, then claiming to have casually let their own horses out of the barn is a peculiar way to go about it.

  4. Mary says:

    Yes, we believe that private property is a constitutional right. Yes, we believe that competitors should not misrepresent themselves as vendors in order to request confidential information. Yes, we believe that a company offering security services on a top level domain should offer new technology, not simply enforce today’s best practices. Yes, we believe in the rule of law. – Mary at Domain Security Company LLC

  5. John Berryhill says:

    “Yes, we believe that private property is a constitutional right.”

    I do hope you included that view of “what is a TLD delegation” in your application. I’m certain the evaluators will find it significant in relation to RFC 1591.

    US federal trademark rights under the Lanham Act, as you’ve been told before, arise under the Commerce Clause, and is entirely a statutory creature. I gather you still haven’t figured out that the Lanham Act has no relation to the Patent and Copyright Clause of the Constitution, but I’m not surprised.

    But, by all means, file a lawsuit claiming you were so readily hoodwinked out of your sensitive and proprietary information, without taking any formal precaution, while simultaneously making the case that your organization is uniquely qualified to run a TLD based upon some notion of information security.

    We’ll all put the popcorn on.

    • Sara says:

      The USPTO cites the Article 1 Section 8 as its basis according to their website. “Since 1790, the basic role of the United States intellectual property system has remained the same: to promote the progress of science and the useful arts by securing for limited times to inventors the exclusive right to their respective discoveries (Article I, Section 8 of the United States Constitution). ”

      See the bottom half of this page.
      http://www.uspto.gov/about/bios/cohn_bio.jsp

      That’s not the commerce clause.

  6. John Berryhill says:

    Sara,

    That’s because the USPTO has a “P” in it which stands for patents. You’ll notice two things about that quote.

    1. It omits “authors” because the Copyright Office deals with that.

    2. Trademark rights are not “inventions” made by inventors.

    That passage refers solely to the patent side of the operation. It is basic US law that the trademark registration system arises under the Commerce Clause. That is why, when you file the application, you have to attest to use “in interstate commerce”.

    Please do not embarrass yourself further. We did not have a federal trademark law until 1870.

    http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_trademark_law

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