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Ten more new gTLDs get ICANN contracts

Kevin Murphy, December 13, 2013, Domain Registries

.bar, .pub, .fish, .actor, .caravan, .saarland, .yokohama, .ren, .eus and .рус all have new gTLD contracts with ICANN as of yesterday.

It’s an eclectic batch of TLDs. Unusually, only one belongs to Donuts.

Of note is .caravan, which on the face of it looks like an English-language generic, but which is actually a closed, single-registrant dot-brand.

While “caravan” is an English dictionary word in the UK and Australasia, in the US it’s a 50-year-old trademark belonging to Illinois-based applicant Caravan International.

The Governmental Advisory Committee never flagged up .caravan as a “closed generic” in its Beijing Communique, so ICANN never questioned how it would be used.

However, the application states that the company plans “to reserve all names within the TLD to itself”.

What we seem to have here is a case of a dictionary word in one part of the world being captured by a single-registrant applicant due to a trademark elsewhere.

Another notable new Registry Agreement signatory is Punto 2012, which has obtained a contract for .bar.

The gTLD was originally contested, but Demand Media’s United TLD withdrew following an RFP held by the government of Montenegro, which had an effective veto over the string “Bar” due to a match with the protected name of one of its administrative regions.

I gather Montenegro will be paid in some way from the .bar registry pot.

There are also a few new geographic/cultural registries this week: .eus for the Basque people of Spain, .yokohama for a Japanese city, .saarland for a German state and the Cyrillic IDN .рус for a subset of the Russian people.

The only .brand is .ren, for the Chinese social network Renren.

The remainder are English-language generics.

GAC kills off two more new gTLD bids

Kevin Murphy, December 11, 2013, Domain Registries

A new gTLD applicant has withdrawn two of its Chinese-language applications after failing to secure the necessary government support.

Guangzhou YU Wei Information Technology Co withdrew its applications for .深圳 (.shenzhen) and .广州 (.guangzhou).

Both are the names of very large cities in southern China.

The ICANN Governmental Advisory Committee had previously issued official Advice against both bids.

The applicant had failed to get a passing score on its Initial Evaluation earlier this year, with ICANN ruling that governmental “support or non-objection was either not provided or did not meet the criteria”.

To get a geographic gTLD, you need to prove local government support, something which the applicant seems to have been unable to provide during Extended Evaluation.

Weirdly, Guangzhou YU Wei has previously passed EE for .佛山 (.foshan) and IE for .广东 (.guangdong), which are both also Chinese geographic names.

German geo .ruhr enters the root

Kevin Murphy, December 11, 2013, Domain Registries

Verisign today delegated the new gTLD .ruhr to the DNS root zone, making it the 35th new gTLD to go live.

It’s a geographic string, meant for residents of the north-west German region of Ruhr, operated by Regiodot.

nic.ruhr is already resolving.

Regiodot is already taking pre-registrations via approximately 10 signed-up registrars, which all appear to operate in German-speaking countries.

The Ruhr (in German, it’s short for Ruhrgebiet) has over eight million inhabitants, according to Wikipedia, making the potential market for .ruhr larger than many European ccTLDs.

ICANN floats new rules for dot-brands

Kevin Murphy, December 9, 2013, Domain Registries

Dot-brand gTLDs could get big exemptions to the standard new gTLD Registry Agreement under new rules published for public comment by ICANN over the weekend.

The proposed changes were negotiated by ICANN and the Brand Registry Group, a coalition of dot-brand applicants that one day plans to become a formal part of ICANN’s policy-making structure.

“The changes will allow trademark owners who have applied for new TLDs to promote and maintain trust in their .Brand registries,” the BRG said in a statement supporting the changes.

Dot-brands would be completely exempt from the standard Code of Conduct, which requires registries to treat all accredited registrars equally.

They’d be explicitly allowed to work with only one trusted registrar.

Given that dot-brands are all essentially single-registrants spaces (limited to the brand owner, its affiliates and trademark licensees) it makes sense to eschew the usual competitive registrar market.

Brand owners were also very worried about ICANN’s right to re-delegate defunct gTLDs, including dot-brands, to new registry operators, which could be seen as extreme brand dilution.

So the proposed RA amendment would also prevent ICANN from redelegating dot-brands for two years after the agreement expires, unless there’s a compelling public-interest reason to do so.

If ICANN chose to redelegate during that period, the former dot-brand would be able to object.

Nothing would stop a third party applying for the vacated gTLD in a subsequent application round.

The changes appear to prevent brand registries from claiming exclusive rights to gTLD strings in perpetuity, while still giving them breathing space to wind down and attempt to avoid brand confusion.

The definition of a “brand” seems to have been written in order to prevent gaming by companies with trademarks on generic strings.

To qualify to become a dot-brand, a registry would have to prove that its gTLD string is a trademark it owns for non-domain industry they’re already playing in. Strings starting with dots would be excluded.

ICANN would determine which gTLDs are eligible, and would be able to revoke the dot-brand status if the registry changed its business plans in future.

The proposal has been negotiated by ICANN legal staff and the BRG and has not yet been approved by the New gTLD Program Committee or the ICANN board.

It’s open for public comment until January 31, here.

Oh no! Cement company withdraws dot-brand bid

Kevin Murphy, December 6, 2013, Domain Registries

FLSmidth, a Danish cement company, has withdrawn its application for the new gTLD .fls.

It’s the first dot-brand to be withdrawn from the program in months.

FLSmidth had passed Initial Evaluation and was not facing any objections or Governmental Advisory Committee advice, so it’s not immediately clear why the company decided to pull out.

The company recently reported a fall in profitability, so perhaps it’s just trying to cut costs by eliminating superfluous expenses.