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Unsnubbed? ICANN brass get tickets to ITU curtain-raiser

Kevin Murphy, November 28, 2012, Domain Policy

ICANN’s chairman and CEO have been invited to the World Conference on International Telecommunications next week, as “special guests” of the International Telecommunications Union.

It’s a token gesture of friendship at best, with the invitation only good for the opening ceremony, rather than any substantive policy discussions.

But it’s a contrast to the ITU’s treatment of former ICANN CEO Rod Beckstrom, who was snubbed when he asked for observer status for an ITU Plenipotentiary in 2010.

This year’s invitation is not, however, a reversal of that policy. ICANN’s not technically going to be an observer this time either.

WCIT, which begins on Monday in Dubai, will see the ITU’s member governments convene to redraft their governing International Telecommunications Regulations.

There’s been a bit of a commotion in the US over the last several months over the potential for a power grab by the ITU. Some governments would sooner the ITU handled ICANN’s functions.

But the conventional wisdom at the moment — supported by ITU chief Hamadoun Toure’s strenuous denials — is that ICANN is probably safe.

ITU conferences are notoriously opaque. You can’t even download policy proposals unless you’re a member, and getting an invitation to attend in person has some political value.

That’s why anyone interested in knowing what’s likely to go down at WCIT could do worse than check out .nxt, where Kieren McCarthy earned huge kudos this week by publishing over 200 previously secret documents.

Seized .eu, .be counterfeiting domains now pointing to US government servers

Kevin Murphy, November 27, 2012, Domain Policy

At least three of the European domain names seized in this year’s batch of Cyber Monday anti-counterfeiting law enforcement are now pointing to servers controlled by the US government.

We’ve found that chaussuresfoot.be, chaussurevogue.eu and eshopreplica.eu are now hosted on the same IP addresses as SeizedServers.com, the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement site.

But the three domains, believed to be among the 132 grabbed ahead of this year’s online shopping rush, display warnings incorporating the logos of multiple European law enforcement agencies.

While domains in .dk, .fr, .ro and .uk were also targeted by this year’s transatlantic crackdown, none appear to be using SeizedServers.com.

According to an ICE press release yesterday, this was the first year that Operation In Our Sites, which kicked off at this time in 2010, has included overseas law enforcement.

The partnership, coordinated between ICE and Europol, was code-named Project Transatlantic.

Trademark Clearinghouse fees to be capped at $150

Kevin Murphy, November 27, 2012, Domain Policy

Submitting your trademarks to ICANN’s forthcoming Trademark Clearinghouse will cost a maximum of $150 per mark, according to ICANN CEO Fadi Chehade.

In a new blog post, Chehade provides an update to its contract talks with IBM, which will provide the Clearinghouse back-end, and Deloitte, which will be the first submission agent.

It’s shaping up to mimic the registry-registrar model, mapped to the trademark world, and Chehade has confirmed that Deloitte will most likely have competition at the ‘registrar’ level:

Deloitte’s validation services are to be non-exclusive. ICANN may add additional validators after a threshold of minimum stability is met.

The fee for Deloitte to validate trademarks for inclusion in the Clearinghouse will be capped at $150, Chehade said, with discounts for multiple trademarks and multi-year registrations.

IBM will charge Deloitte and gTLD registries for database access on a per-API-call basis, but prices there have not yet been disclosed.

Chehade also provided an update on the so-called “straw man” solution to the trademark community’s unhappiness with the current strength of new gTLD rights protection mechanisms.

For the most part, the update is merely a procedural defense of the changes that ICANN wants to make to the Sunrise and Trademark Claims processes, such as the creation of a “Claims 2″ service.

The argument is, essentially: “This isn’t policy, it’s implementation.”

ICANN “policies” have to go through community processes before becoming law, whereas “implementation” is somewhat more flexible. Things are often classified as implementation when there are pressing deadlines.

The one change identified by Chehade as possibly needing community work is the extension of Trademark Claims from trademarks only to trademark+keyword or typo registrations.

He said he plans to publish the full straw man model, which has been developed behind closed doors with selected members of the GNSO, later this week.

Cops seize 132 domains in Cyber Monday crackdown

Kevin Murphy, November 26, 2012, Domain Policy

Law enforcement agencies in the US and Europe have shut down 132 domain names in order to stop the selling of counterfeit merchandise online.

According to the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, the now-annual Cyber Monday crackdown included domain names in the .eu, .be, .dk, .fr, .ro and .uk ccTLDs.

Law enforcement from those countries were involved, via Europol, in their respective local seizures, while ICE nabbed 101 domains in generic TLDs whose registries are based in the US.

One person was also arrested, and ICE plans to seize $175,000 in ill-gotten gains sent to a PayPal account connected with the sites.

It’s the third year in a row that ICE has led an operation of this kind before “Cyber Monday”, which in recent years has become the most popular day of the year for e-commerce deals.

The operation started when ICE and Europol “received leads from various trademark holders regarding the infringing websites”, ICE said in a press release.

ICANN may have got lucky with a URS vendor

Kevin Murphy, November 25, 2012, Domain Policy

ICANN may have found a vendor willing to provide Uniform Rapid Suspension services for new gTLDs at $500 or less per case, without having to rewrite the policy to do so.

Last month, Olof Nordling, director of services relations at ICANN, gave the GNSO Council a heads-up that the URS policy may have to be tweaked if ICANN were to hit its fee targets.

But last week, following the receipt of several responses to a URS vendor Request For Information, Nordling seems to have retracted the request.

In a message to Council chair Jonathan Robinson, he wrote:

The deadline for responses to the URS RFI has passed and I’m happy to inform you that we have received several responses which we are now evaluating. Moreover, my first impression is that the situation looks quite promising, both in terms of adherence to the URS text and regarding the target fee. This also means that there is less of an urgency than I previously thought to convene a drafting team (and I’m glad to have been proven wrong in that regard!). There may still be details where such a drafting team can provide useful guidance and I will get back to you with further updates on this and other URS matters as we advance with the evaluations.

The target fee for URS has always been $300 to $500 per case, between a fifth and a third of the fee UDRP providers charge.

Following an initial, private consultation with UDRP providers WIPO and the the National Arbitration Forum, ICANN concluded that that it would miss that target unless the URS was simplified.

But some GNSO members called for a formal, open RFP, in order to figure out just how good a price vendors were willing to offer when they were faced with actual competition.

It seems to have worked.

During a session on URS at the Toronto meeting last month, incumbents WIPO and NAF were joined by a new would-be arbitration forum going by the name of Intersponsive.

Represented by IP lawyers Paul McGrady and Brad Bertoglio, the new company claimed it would be able to hit the price target due to software and process efficiencies.

NAF also said it would be able to hit targets for most URS cases, but pointed out that the poorly-described policy would create complex edge cases that would be more expensive to handle.

WIPO, for its part, said a cheaper URS would only be possible if registrants automatically lost the cases if they failed to respond to complaints.

This angered big domainers represented by the Internet Commerce Association and free speech advocates in the GNSO, who feared a simpler URS meant fewer registrant rights.

It’s not yet known which vendors are in with a shot of winning the URS contract, but if ICANN has found a reasonably priced provider, that would be pretty good news for registrants and IP owners.