Some of the enhanced trademark protection mechanisms being discussed currently by the IP lobby seem unlikely to be adopted by ICANN any time soon, if a response to Congress from new CEO Fadi Chehadé is any guide.
In a letter published tonight, Chehadé appears to rule out both the inclusion of ‘brand+keyword’ records in the Trademark Clearinghouse and an extension of the Trademark Claims service beyond 60 days.
These are two of the common demands to emerge recently from ICANN’s Business Consituency, Intellectual Property Constituency, and the so-called “brand summit” proposal.
On extending the Trademark Claims service — which alerts trademark owners when somebody registers a domain exactly matching their mark — beyond the current 60 days, he wrote:
For the first round of new gTLDs, ICANN is not in a position to unilaterally require today an extension of the 60-day minimum length of the trademark claims service. The 60-day period was reached through a multi-year, extensive process with the ICANN community. One reason for this is that there are existing IP Watch services that address this needs. Those community members that designed the Trademark Claims process were cognizant of existing protections and sought to fill gaps, not replace existing services and business models.
While this obviously does not rule out an extension of Trademark Claims, it’s pretty clear from the letter that ICANN has no plans to do so without some form of community consent.
On the matter of brand+keyword protections, seen by the trademark community as a crucial component of a strong anti-cybersquatting regime, Chehadé wrote:
It is important to note that the Trademark Clearinghouse is intended be a repository for existing legal rights, and not an adjudicator of such rights or creator of new rights. Extending the protections offered through the Trademark Clearinghouse to any form of name (such as the mark + generic term suggested in your letter) would potentially expand rights beyond those granted under trademark law and put the Clearinghouse in the role of making determinations as to the scope of particular rights.
He goes on to say that providing enhanced rights protection mechanisms is optional for new gTLD registries and may be one way that they can competitively differentiate themselves.
Indeed, large applicants such as Donuts, Uniregistry and Google say they will offer RPMs that go above and beyond what is required by ICANN.
Extended trademark claims and the brand+keyword protections are two of the changes to the current proposed mesh of mechanisms that the trademark community has found common ground on recently.
At the Melbourne IT trademark summit in Washington DC earlier this week, these two areas were among those that appeared to have the most consensus.
However, applicants for mass-market gTLDs are fervently opposed to changes being made to the Applicant Guidebook at this late stage.
Jon Nevett, co-founder of Donuts, said at the Melbourne IT event that “the Applicant Guidebook at this point should be deemed closed”.
He pointed out that, having paid ICANN about $350 million in application fees, applicants should be considered contracted parties and have their expectations respected.
ICANN wants to try to put the unresolved issues surrounding the Uniform Rapid Suspension system to bed and is planning a meeting in a couple of weeks time to solicit community input.
According to an email from chief of strategy Kurt Pritz to the GNSO Council and At-Large Advisory Committee, ICANN plans to hold a webinar, with a possible face-to-face option, in about two weeks.
The aim is to sort out the problems with URS, which was originally conceived as a faster, cheaper version of UDRP for clear-cut cases of cybersquatting that don’t require much thought to decide.
It’s currently neither fast enough for the trademark lobby’s liking, nor as cheap as ICANN had hoped.
ICANN had targeted a $300 to $500 fee to file URS complaints, but following conversations with the World Intellectual Property Organization and National Arbitration Forum it realized that the true cost was likely to be as much as triple that amount, more in line with UDRP fees.
The higher than expected costs are largely due to the additional registrant protections that were negotiated into the URS procedure over the last few years, which complicate matters.
At a session at the ICANN meeting in Prague this June, community members tried to figure out ways to make URS cheaper without compromising these protections.
Pritz’s email suggested that some of these ideas might work, but others might run counter to established policy.
Many parties on both side of the fence are coming to the realization that unless URS is in place, new gTLD registries that are contractually obliged to abide by it may not be able to launch.
Yesterday, at Melbourne IT’s summit on trademark protection in Washington DC, there were some calls for ICANN to just issue a request for proposals and see which provider offers the best price.
There are plenty of UDRP lawyers/panelists who believe URS cases can easily be handled in 15 minutes at $200, assuming most of the process is automated and the complaints are kept to a word limit.
The campaign group United Against Nuclear Iran has called on ICANN to switch off internet access to Iran, due to an apparent misunderstanding of what it is ICANN does.
In a letter sent earlier this month and published yesterday, UANI told ICANN to “immediately cease and desist” from providing “ICANN/IANA access” to Iranian entities covered by US and EU sanctions.
The group is worried that these organizations are using the internet to help Iran with its goal of creating nuclear weapons.
The letter states:
Absent access to ICANN/IANA, the dictatorial regime of Iran would be severely impeded in pursuing its illegal and amoral activities. For each day that you knowingly continue to provide Iran sanction-designated persons and entities access to the worldwide web, ICANN/IANA will be increasingly complicit in the IRGC and Iranian regime’s nefarious behavior. ICANN/IANA must stop transacting with such Iranian entities and persons and deny them access to Unique Web Identifiers, and therefore, the worldwide web.”
The letter is stupid on so many levels it’s difficult to know where to begin.
It appears to assume that ICANN has the power and ability to shut down certain individual .ir and .com domain names, which are registered to and used by sanctioned entities.
The letter (pdf) states:
Prominent sanction-designated Iranian entities have acquired .ir Unique Internet Identifiers from ICANN/IANA through the RIPE NCC. For example, Iran’s nuclear brain trust, Malek Ashtar University holds the http://www.mut.ac.ir/ address. Major Iranian banks, including the country’s central bank, maintain active websites (e.g. http://www.cbi.ir, http://www.bank-maskan.ir, http://www.bmi.ir and http://www.banksepah.ir). Further, Khatam al-Anbia, which serves as the IRGC’s engineering arm with over 812 subsidiaries and is heavily involved in the construction of the Qom/Fordow nuclear weapons facilities, holds the web address of http://www.khatam.com. These sanction-designated entities could not gain such web access without ICANN/IANA.
You’ll immediately notice that UANI seems to think that RIPE NCC hands out .ir addresses, which it does not. RIPE is a Regional Internet Registry that deals exclusively with IP address blocks.
ICANN doesn’t have the power to shut down individual domains either. It has powers over the root zone — top-level domains — not second-level domains in individual TLDs.
Nor does ICANN appear to work with any of the organizations on the US list of sanctioned entities.
The .ir ccTLD is delegated to the Tehran-based Institute for Research in Fundamental Sciences, which is not sanctioned.
ICANN could, feasibly, shut down the whole of .ir, as long as Verisign and the US Department of Commerce — which have ultimate control over the root — played along, but that seems like overkill.
Is UANI asking ICANN to shut down the whole of the .ir space?
Apparently not. In fact, the group condemns censorship and appears to support the ability of regular Iranian citizens to access a free, unfettered internet. The letter states:
Unfortunately, ICANN/IANA and the Unique Internet Identifiers that it provides are misused by the sanction-designated Iranian entities and persons to facilitate their illicit operations, activities and communications including support for Iran’s rogue nuclear weapons program, Iran’s sponsorship of terrorism around the world, and the Iranian regimes brutal crackdown against its own people. Disturbingly, that crackdown includes the ruthless censorship of the Internet and other communication access, and the use of tracking technology to monitor, torture and kill freedom seeking dissidents.
Simply put, ICANN/IANA should not provide the internet communications means that the Iranian regime and the IRGC misuses to censor and deny Internet freedoms to its people, much less to support Iran’s illicit nuclear program or its sponsorship of terrorism.
Netherlands-based RIPE has already responded, saying:
The RIPE NCC is in contact with the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs to ensure that we operate in accordance with Dutch law and all applicable international sanctions. Our advice from the Ministry has been that the RIPE NCC is not in violation of these sanctions. However, we will investigate in cases where new information is provided to us and we will ensure that changing circumstances do not place the RIPE NCC in violation of sanctions.
UANI could have avoided embarrassing itself with a couple of phone calls, and I have to wonder why it did not.
Possibly because it can get New York Times column inches simply by throwing around accusations.
ICANN’s board of directors has set itself a deadline to come to a decision on special new gTLD protections for the International Olympic Committee and Red Cross.
It’s looking rather like the IOC, Red Cross and Red Crescent are going to get more of the concessions they’ve been asking for for the last few years, including protection at the second level.
In a resolution passed last week, the ICANN board urged the Generic Names Supporting Organization to make recommendations before January 31 next year, and indicated that it would take matters into its own hands if GNSO consensus cannot be found.
Resolved, the Board thanks the GNSO for its continued attention and ongoing work on this topic, and requests that the GNSO continue its work on a policy recommendation on second-level protections for the IOC and Red Cross/Red Crescent names on an expedited basis.
Resolved (NG2012.09.13.01), if it is not possible to conclude the policy work prior to 31 January 2013, the Board requests that the GNSO Council advise the Board by no later than that date if it is aware of any reason, such as concerns with the global public interest or the security or stability of the DNS, that the Board should take into account in making its decision about whether to include second level protections for the IOC and Red Cross/Red Crescent names
The GNSO has a working group looking at the problem, which is currently deciding whether to recommend starting a formal Policy Development Process.
Given that new gTLDs are expected to start launching in less than a year, and given that PDPs take forever to wrap up, if they ever do, it’s also trying to decide whether to recommend that the IOC/RC/RC marks should be protected in the interim.
Exact matches of the Olympic and Red Cross names, as well as a limited number of translations, would be “reserved” or otherwise removed from sale by each new gTLD registry.
The ICANN board appears to be leaning towards granting these interim protections. In last week’s resolution, it stated:
the Board favors a conservative approach, that restrictions on second-level registration can be lifted at a later time, but restrictions cannot be applied retroactively after domain names are registered.
The IOC/RC/RC debate has been going on since June 2011, when the ICANN board gave the organizations temporary top-level protection in new gTLDs and then passed the hot potato to the GNSO.
There’s a parallel argument going on at the moment with intergovernmental organizations demanding the same or greater protection, too. Expect IGOs to react with further (mock?) outrage if the IOC/RC/RC get special treatment.
Recently unredacted ICANN board briefing documents reignited the IGO debate last week.
ICANN’s new CEO started work today, two weeks ahead of his original schedule, and immediately made several big changes to the senior management team.
In what can only be described as a ballsy move, Fadi Chehadé has already recruited two of his erstwhile rivals for the CEO job into newly created senior positions.
Other senior executives have also been promoted, a move that Chehadé hopes will send a message about his priorities.
He outlined his changes in an interview with DI.
Two big new hires
Seasoned public relations executive Sally Costerton has been hired as chief stakeholder engagement officer, while Egypt’s former minister of communications Tarek Kamel is the new senior adviser for government affairs. Both are new positions.
Both had put themselves forward as candidates to replace departing CEO Rod Beckstrom earlier this year and both were shortlisted by ICANN’s executive search team before they settled on Chehadé.
Costerton, described last year as “arguably the most senior woman in the UK PR consultancy business” is the British former CEO of the EMEA arm of Hill & Knowlton, a major PR agency.
While Kamel’s technical and internet governance credentials are sound, he’s a potentially controversial hire.
An engineer by training, he’s spent most of his career involved in telecommunications and internet regulatory matters.
Along with his government duties, he’s participated in the Internet Society, the Internet Governance Forum, and has been involved with ICANN since the very beginning, speaking at its two Cairo meetings.
But he’s best-known most recently for being Egypt’s minister of IT under Hosni Mubarak’s presidency, up until the 2011 Egyptian revolution.
Basically, he was in charge when the internet got turned off.
While I can see Kamel’s appointment creating headlines in the coming days (think “ICANN hires man who turned off the internet”), Chehadé insists that his actions during the revolution were “near heroism”.
“He did not turn off the internet,” Chehadé told DI. “As I’ve spent quite a bit of time understanding the facts and circumstances surrounding what did take place in Egypt, it turns out that’s a wrong fact.”
“Tarek was put under an enormous amount of personal risk for himself, for his family,” Chehadé said. “Once I understood the facts I’m very confident that Tarek was a very positive force in the events that took place during this tumultuous time in Egypt.”
“I now am very clear on the frankly near-heroism that he has put on the table in order to ensure the people of Egypt got their services back as quickly as possible,” he said.
Promotions for Serad and Pritz
Kurt Pritz, who’s currently senior vice president of stakeholder relations and acting director of the new gTLD program, is getting promoted to a C-level spot, reporting to Chehadé.
Pritz, with his encyclopedic knowledge of the new gTLD program and willingness to get beaten up by the community on a regular basis, is not somebody you want to risk leaving ICANN at this critical juncture.
He’ll be chief of strategy from now on.
Maguy Serad, who was hired as senior director of contractual compliance in March 2011, has been promoted to vice president of contractual compliance, effective today, reporting directly to Chehadé.
Chehadé said that he wants Serad’s promotion to send a message to the community about the importance of the compliance function, something he discussed during his speech in Prague this June.
“I will be frankly bringing a lot more weight and a lot more independent management from my office to the compliance function,” he said. “This is important both in substance and as well as in sending a clear message of the importance of this area to the community.”
“I’m doing it on the first day to send that message clearly.”
With Barbara Ann Clay resigning as vice president of communications a couple of weeks ago, her function has been filled on an interim basis by Jim Trengrove, who’s reporting to Costerton.
Elad Levinson, who is no longer vice president of organizational effectiveness, is not being immediately replaced.
Chehadé said that these two departures did not happen on his watch and offered no additional details.
Akram Atallah, who has been keeping the CEO’s chair warm since Beckstrom left in early July, will resume his former role as chief operating officer from today.
His position is being expanded to include the operations side of the new gTLD program, registry and registrar services, and security, Chehadé said.