A US trademark on the term “.bank” granted to a likely .bank top-level domain applicant has been canceled just over a week after it was approved.
The Patent & Trademark Office withdrew trademark 4,085,335 yesterday, stating that it had been issued to Asif LLC in error.
The USPTO noticed that the application was for a gTLD string after receiving a letter of protest on January 6, which it forgot to process before granting the trademark.
In a letter to Asif’s lawyers, the USPTO noted that it has a policy of not approving trademarks for TLDs, adding:
The USPTO has broad authority to correct mistakes…
In view of the letter of protest prior to registration and the clear violation of the USPTO’s established policy that marks such as this do not function as trademarks, this registration is canceled as inadvertently issued
Asif, which recently changed its name to Domain Security Company, intends to apply to ICANN for .bank and .secure, but as I reported last week it faces an uphill battle given rival .bank bids.
It used a Wild West Domains reseller account to demonstrate to the USPTO it was using the .bank mark.
It’s not currently clear who was responsible for the letter of protest.
Barely a day has passed recently without a news report about how companies are being forced to apply for new top-level domains to prevent cybersquatters moving in on their brands.
It’s complete nonsense, of course, brought about by a lack of basic research coupled with years of bad feeling towards the domain name industry and an ICANN new gTLDs outreach campaign that spent six months failing to effectively tackle widely held misconceptions.
Cybersquatters are not going to apply for new gTLDs. If they do, they won’t be approved.
Unfortunately, this does not mean that we’re not going to see lots of “defensive” new gTLD applications.
Due to the way the program is structured, it may actually make strategic sense for some companies to apply for a dot-brand gTLD even if they are otherwise pretty clueless about domain names.
It worries me to think that a few years from now the TLD space – which is currently running at almost 100% utilization – will start to resemble the second level in pretty much every major TLD, with lots of essentially unused, redundant defensive domain names.
I don’t think this will be good for the domain name industry or ICANN.
That said, what looks good for ICANN and the domain name industry is of little concern to brand owners – they just want to make sure their brands are not damaged by the program.
Twentieth Century Fox appears to have filed a UDRP complaint over the domain name foxstudios.xxx.
The domain, which does not currently resolve, was registered to a Connecticut man in December, shortly after ICM Registry took .xxx into general availability.
It’s the fifth UDRP case in the .xxx space since late December. The others are richardbranson.xxx, valero.xxx, heb.xxx and markafoni.xxx.
While it’s a National Arbitration Forum complaint – so the identity of the complainant has not yet been disclosed – Fox Studios is a Fox subsidiary that does business at foxstudios.com.
A bit of Googling reveals that Fox Studios was also the name of a gay porn production company that won some awards in the late 1990s. Its DVDs are still for sale from several sites.
So it may not be a slam-dunk UDRP win for Fox in this case. If the registrant bothers to respond to the complaint he could probably make a decent case that it was not a bad-faith registration.
Incidentally, foxstudios.net appears to be owned by a small but legitimate photography business in Michigan, which I think is a perfect example of how two companies can happily share a brand using different TLDs.
ICANN has appointed two new vice presidents to head up its European and Latin American offices.
British former civil servant Nigel Hickson, who ICANN says has experience working in European Union politics, is the new VP for Europe.
Rodrigo de la Parra, the newly appointed VP for Latin America, is an internal promotion. Since January 2011 he has been ICANN’s Regional Liaison for Latin America.
He formerly held senior positions within Mexican telecommunications regulator Cofetel and was Mexico’s representative on ICANN’s Governmental Advisory Committee.
Both positions are new. The VP of Europe job was originally given to French software executive Thomas Spiller, but he quit before he even started last August.
While the new version of ICANN’s new generic top-level domains Applicant Guidebook contains mostly tweaks, there’s a pretty big change for those filing “controversial” applications.
The Guidebook now grants the Governmental Advisory Committee greater powers to block gTLD applications based on minority government views.
ICANN has adopted poorly-written, ambiguous text approved by the GAC at its meeting in Dakar last October, which lowers the threshold required to force the ICANN board to consider GAC advice.
The changes essentially mean that it’s now much easier for the GAC to force the ICANN board to the negotiating table if a small number of governments object to a gTLD application.
In the September Guidebook, a GAC consensus objection was needed to force the ICANN board to manually approve controversial applications. Now, it appears that only a single country needs to object.
This is the relevant text:
The GAC advises ICANN that there are concerns about a particular application “dot-example.” The ICANN Board is expected to enter into dialogue with the GAC to understand the scope of concerns. The ICANN Board is also expected to provide a rationale for its decision.
Applications for .gay, of which there are expected to be at least two, will almost certainly fall into this category.
If you’re applying for a potentially controversial gTLD, you can thank the GAC for the fact that your road to approval is now considerably less predictable.
It’s also worth bearing in mind that the GAC is allowed to file an objection based on any aspect of the application – not just the chosen string.
So, for example, if you’re applying for .bank or .pharma and your application falls short of one government’s expected consumer safeguards, you may also see a GAC “concerns” objection.
In cases where the GAC objects to an application, the ICANN board of directors does have the ability to overrule that objection, if it provides its rationale, much as it did with .xxx.
However, .xxx was a special case, and ICANN today is under a regime much friendlier to the GAC and much more nervous about the international political environment than it was 12 months ago.
Make no mistake: GAC Advice on New gTLDs will carry weight.
This table compares the types of GAC Advice described in the Applicant Guidebook published in September with the one published last night.
|September Applicant Guidebook||January Applicant Guidebook|
|I. The GAC advises ICANN that it is the consensus of the GAC that a particular application should not proceed. This will create a strong presumption for ICANN that the application should not be approved. In the event that the ICANN Board determines to approve an application despite the consensus advice of the GAC, pursuant to the ICANN Bylaws, the GAC and the ICANN Board will then try, in good faith and in a timely and efficient manner, to find a mutually acceptable solution. In the event the Board determines not to accept the GAC Advice, the Board will provide a rationale for its decision.||I. The GAC advises ICANN that it is the consensus of the GAC that a particular application should not proceed. This will create a strong presumption for the ICANN Board that the application should not be approved. The ICANN Board is also expected to provide a rationale for its decision if it does not follow the GAC
|II. The GAC provides advice that indicates that some governments are concerned about a particular application. Such advice will be passed on to the applicant but will not create the presumption that the application should be denied, and such advice would not require the Board to undertake the process for attempting to find a mutually acceptable solution with the GAC should the application be approved. Note that in any case, that the Board will take seriously any other advice that GAC might provide and will consider entering into dialogue with the GAC to understand the scope of the concerns expressed.||II. The GAC advises ICANN that there are concerns about a particular application “dot-example.” The ICANN Board is expected to enter into dialogue with the GAC to understand the scope of concerns. The ICANN Board is also expected to provide a rationale for its decision.|
|II. The GAC advises ICANN that an application should not proceed unless remediated. This will raise a strong presumption for the Board that the application should not proceed. If there is a remediation method available in the Guidebook (such as securing government approval), that action may be taken. However, material amendments to applications are generally prohibited and if there is no remediation method available, the application will not go forward and the applicant can re-apply in the second round.||III. The GAC advises ICANN that an application should not proceed unless remediated. This will raise a strong presumption for the Board that the application should not proceed unless there is a remediation method available in the Guidebook (such as securing the approval of one or more governments), that is implemented by the applicant. If the issue identified by the GAC is not remediated, the ICANN Board is also expected to provide a rationale for its decision if the Board does not follow GAC advice.|
It should also be noted that since Dakar the GAC has defined consensus as “the practice of adopting decisions by general agreement in the absence of any formal objection”.
In other words, if some GAC members push for a GAC consensus objection against a given gTLD, other GAC members would have to formally object to that proposed objection in order to prevent the minority view becoming consensus.
It’s a pretty low threshold. The .gay applicants, among others, are going to have a nerve-wracking time.