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DirectEmployers calls shenanigans on .jobs outcry

The DirectEmployers Association has gone on the offensive in the continuing battle over the .jobs liberalization, accusing its detractors of conducting an “astroturf” campaign.

Bill Warren, founder and executive director of the DEA, has filed comments to ICANN here.

He accuses the International Association of Employment Web Sites of conducting “nothing less than a smear campaign using modern day technology such as e-mail, blogs, and twitter”.

He’s referring to the scores of letters and emails that have arrived at ICANN over the last week, criticizing .jobs registry Employ Media’s proposal to drop the rule that only company names are allowed in the .jobs namespace.

Jobs sites, in particular, are pissed that Employ Media plans to hand over tens of thousands of premium generic .jobs domains to the DEA to use as gateways to a massive new jobs board, rather than open them up for general registration.

If you currently run a jobs site at NewYorkJobs.com or NursingJobs.com, for example, you would be unable to register NewYork.jobs or Nursing.jobs.

The DEA would likely own both of these domains, along with thousands of others, a situation described by one commenter as a “big giant SEO scam“.

Warren’s letter generally avoids discussing the merits of this plan, instead focusing on attacking its critics’ tactics.

the overwhelming majority of opposing comments – and we’ve reviewed each – clearly indicate no review of the substantial body of work that comprises the RSEP [Registry Services Evaluation Process] submission by Employ Media

It’s true that the majority of the letters include at least some form text created by Steven Rothberg of CollegeRecruiter.com, one of the key individuals behind the IAEWS campaign.

The letters are generally less spammy than similar letter-writing campaigns conducted during the recent .xxx controversy, however, with many writers attempting to add their own two cents.

(Speaking of .xxx, Warren claims that IAEWS has hired the same lawyer who represented .xxx registry ICM. I’m guessing he means Becky Burr of Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr, but I’m waiting for confirmation of that)

Warren believes that the Society of Human Resource Management, the sponsor and policy-maker for the .jobs domain, “managed a policy development process to arrive at a bottom up, consensus recommendation in the interests of the specific community .jobs exists to serve”.

According to ERE.net, the HR news site that has been doing a far better job of reporting this story than me, this SHRM policy council has been pretty much asleep at the wheel, and may even have been captured. Warren himself apparently used to chair it.

Personally, as somebody with no horse in this race, I merely find it distasteful that Warren is complaining so vehemently about jobs boards having their say in the ICANN process, when the SHRM process deliberately excluded their opinions from its outreach.

The SHRM survey (pdf) filed in support of the .jobs proposal specifically says: “Consultants were also not included in this universe, so that companies specializing in providing job search engines/job boards could not distort the responses from practicing HR professionals.”

The Employ Media proposal to change its contract has already passed an ICANN competition review, so I’m not sure there are any documented ways it can be killed off under the RSEP, although the board will still have to vote on it.

.CO sunrise sees gaming attempts

.CO Internet has published a list of over 1,500 domains that were rejected during its two-month-long trademark-protection sunrise period for the .co namespace.

While the document does not break down the reasons why each name was rejected, it appears to list some attempts to game the system by registering non-existent trademarks or trademarks belonging to other entities.

It’s a 48-page document, compiled by Deloitte, but the range of rejected domains can be illustrated without leaving the C’s.

Names that were applied for and rejected despite being household names include the likes of circuitcity.co, compusa.co, comet.co and currys.co, all electronics retailers, and chevrolet.co.

Since these are names for which trademarks certainly do exist, I’m drawing the conclusion that the sunrise applicant was not the owner of the trademark.

There were also attempts to register personal names, such as christopher.co and courtney.co, as well as geographical terms, such as coventry.co, cleveland.co and chennai.co.

One wildly optimistic applicant even took a chance on colombia.co.

Some applicants went after the .co variants of popular .com web sites, such as chucknorrisfacts.co and collegehumor.co.

In terms of generic terms, applications were rejected for the likes of coffeehouse.co and countrymusic.co.

All of these names, and 1,500 more from the list, will be released back into the landrush period, in which anybody can attempt to register them, a few hours from now.

The recently extended landrush period ends this Friday. General availability begins next week.

Hat tip to Key-Systems, which released the list earlier today.

VeriSign antitrust claims will be heard in court

VeriSign has suffered another legal setback in its antitrust court battle with the Coalition For ICANN Transparency, after an appeals court ruled that CFIT has a case to be heard.

CFIT reckons VeriSign’s deal with ICANN to run the .com registry, which has a presumptive right of renewal and allows annual price increases, breaks US competition law.

Its complaint had been thrown out of court, but was restored on appeal last year. Today, VeriSign’s request for a rehearing was rejected, meaning the case is cleared for trial.

CFIT counsel Bret Fausett tweeted this evening that it will head either back to the District Court, or to the Supreme Court.

The news couldn’t come at a worse time for VeriSign.

The company has spent the last couple of years getting out of most of its non-domain markets, epitomized by the recent sale of its SSL unit to Symantec, so it is ultra-exposed to risk and uncertainty in its highly lucrative .com business.

For that reason, I doubt this case will ever see trial. We’re looking at a settlement, most likely. VeriSign’s probably going to have to break out the check-book.

CFIT is basically a front operation for Momentous.ca, owner of aftermarket player Pool.com.

Jobs boards slam plan to open up .jobs

Providers of online jobs boards have started to complain to ICANN about plans by registry manager Employ Media to liberalize the .jobs sponsored top-level domain.

It’s rare that an ICANN public comment period attracts a decent amount of comment from outside the usual suspects, but this controversial proposal seems to be heading that way.

Employ Media wants to amend its registry contract to remove the restriction that limits .jobs registrations to the corporate name of employers, a key component of its original commitments.

This has naturally enough stirred debate in the HR community, which now appears to have divided itself into two camps – employers for the changes and jobs boards strongly against.

Several HR professionals with large companies including IBM, BT and Intercontinental Hotels have already filed brief messages with ICANN in support of the .jobs proposal.

Now, the counterargument is being made by a few operators of employer-independent jobs boards, including CollegeRecruiter.com and SalesGravy.com.

The Employ Media proposal would allow it to fulfil its deal with the DirectEmployers Association, which plans to lease thousands of geographic and industry domains.

The DEA plan would essentially be a single jobs site with thousands of domains acting as entry points to vertical listings. Want a job in Chicago? Type in chicago.jobs.

Importantly – and this may explain why HR folk like it – the site would be ad-supported and free for employers to list their openings.

Naturally, existing listings sites see this as an unacceptable competitive threat.

Steve Rothberg, CEO of CollegeRecruiter.com, said in his comment that Employ Media “went out of its way” to avoid getting feedback from existing jobs sites.

The results of an Employ Media survey submitted as part of its application to ICANN make that point pretty clearly.

Todd Goldstein, founder of AccountingJobsToday.com, observed in his comment that the proposal would dilute Employ Media’s original commitment to be “a place for employers” and accused the registry of trying to “route around” its promises to ICANN.

Which top brands turned down their .co domains?

Playboy, Pepsi and Pizza Hut are among 17 of the world’s top 100 brands that did not use the .co sunrise period to register their trademarks as .co domain names.

This is effectively the first empirical data we have to judge the demand for a Globally Protected Marks List along the lines of that which ICANN was toying with for its new TLD program.

.CO Internet, the registry operator behind the newly liberalized Colombian top-level domain, chose to implement a Specially Protected Marks List as one of several IP-protection mechanisms.

The list, maintained by Deloitte, comprises the 100 trademarks thought to be the most valuable, and the most rigorously defended, on the internet.

All of these marks, which include some generic dictionary words, are classified as registry reserved and will be impossible to register unless you are the trademark owner.

Yet 83 of the companies on the list chose to register their names in the .co sunrise anyway.

This may show that famous brands are more interested in owning a name that resolves, rather than merely defensively registering in order to keep their marks out of the hands of cybersquatters.

I can only speculate as to why these 83 chose to participate in the sunrise.

Two obvious reasons are the need to establish a Colombian presence on the internet, and the desire to capture any typo traffic from people miskeying “.com”.

For both these reasons, the data is probably not a reliable indicator of how these companies would act during a generic TLD sunrise.

Of the 100 marks on the Deloitte list, these are the 17 that have so far chosen not to acquire their domains:

Accenture, Accor, Armani, Blackberry, BMW, Carrefour, Dell, Fedex, Ferrari, General Electric, Nivea, Pedigree, Pepsi, Pizza Hut, Playboy, Prada, Reebok, Sanyo, SAP, Sheraton, Tiffany and Total.

Because these are registry-reserved names, there’s no danger of cybersquatters picking them up when .co goes to general availability in a little under 11 days.

UPDATE 2010-07-13: See the comment from .CO Internet below. It seems the SPM list is not as useful for brand holders as I had thought.

Investors circle ICM as .xxx enters home straight

ICM Registry’s board of directors has approved a $5 million funding round, following the recent decision by ICANN to put the .xxx top-level domain onto the path to approval.

ICM president Stuart Lawley tells me he’s underwritten the whole round himself, already injecting another $500,000 of his own money into the company.

Venture capital investors have already approached the company, following the Brussels decision two weeks ago, according to Lawley.

In Brussels, ICANN’s board resolved to re-enter contract negotiations with ICM, following years of wrangling with ICANN’s appeals and independent review processes.

While .xxx’s approval and entry to the DNS root is not a slam-dunk, the only major hurdle appears to be ICANN’s Governmental Advisory Committee, and many believe the GAC is unlikely to stick its neck out on such a controversial issue.

While demand for .xxx domains is yet to be proven, there are already 162,000 pre-registrations, which would work out to a $10 million business, not including premium sunrise and landrush fees.

A report in Business Week last week said ICM could bring in $200 million per year in revenue on registrations alone.

I think that’s a pretty ambitious prediction, to be honest, and I can’t help but wonder in Business Week got ICM’s ten-year and one-year projections mixed up.

Even at $60 a pop, that’s still 3.3 million registered domains. The stars will have to align in unexpected ways for .xxx to reach that kind of penetration (pun intended).

ICM has previously projected near-term registrations in the low-mid hundreds of thousands.

ICM is currently owned by a close-knit group of investors, mainly Lawley’s circle and ICM’s management, with Lawley himself owning roughly 70% of the business.

More details on the Tuvalu-VeriSign deal

VeriSign offered Tuvalu an extra $1 million a year in exchange for the continuing right to run .tv, but the tiny island nation declined, according to a new interview.

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation has a short audio piece over here on the strained relationship between VeriSign and Tuvalu, including an interview with finance minister Lotoala Metia.

Tuvalu gets about $2.2 million a year from VeriSign, according to the piece, but the government thinks it’s being short-changed.

VeriSign offered the country another $1 million a year, on the condition that the deal would be extended for five more years. It currently expires in 2016. Tuvalu declined.

The company declined to comment to ABC, but AusRegistry chief Adrian Kinderis stepped up to defend the deal, pointing out that VeriSign took all the risk.

Kinderis also accepted the interviewer’s suggestion that the new TLD round could leave .tv “obsolete”.

Here’s a link to the stream.

Lego launches attack on new TLDs

Could little yellow plastic men be the death of the new top-level domain process?

Toymaker Lego has filed a scathing criticism of ICANN’s latest Draft Applicant Guidebook for prospective new TLD registries, saying it ignores trademark holders.

Lego, one of the most prolific enforcers of trademarks via the UDRP, said that the latest DAG “has not yet resolved the overarching trademark issue”.

DAG v4 contains new protections designed to make it easier for trademark holders to defend their rights in new TLD namespaces. But Lego reckons these protections are useless.

The Trademark Clearinghouse is NOT a rights protection mechanism but just a database. Such a database does not solve the overarching trademark issues that were intended to be addressed.

Lego also says that the Uniform Rapid Suspension service outlined in DAG v4 is much weaker than it wanted.

“It doesn’t seem to be more rapid or cheaper than the ordinary UDRP,” Lego’s deputy general counsel Peter Kjaer wrote.

Lego thinks that a Globally Protected Marks List, which was at one time under consideration for inclusion in the DAG, would be the best mechanism to protect trademarks.

ICANN still seems to ignore that cybersquatting and all kinds of fraud on the internet is increasing in number and DAG 4 contains nothing that shows trademark owners that ICANN has taken our concerns seriously.

The comment, which is repeated verbatim in a letter from Arla Foods also filed today, is the strongest language yet from the IP lobby in the DAG v4 comment period.

Rumblings at the ICANN meeting Brussels two weeks ago, and earlier, suggest that some companies may consider filing lawsuits to delay the new TLD process, if they don’t get what they want in the final Applicant Guidebook.

ICANN’s top brass, meanwhile, are hopeful of resolving the trademark issues soon, and getting the guidebook close to completion, if not complete, by the Cartagena meeting in December.

Tuvalu not happy with VeriSign deal

The government of the Pacific island nation of Tuvalu feels it’s getting a raw deal under its current contract with .tv registry manager VeriSign.

According to Radio New Zealand International, Tuvalu finance minister Lotoala Metia said VeriSign pays “peanuts” for the right to run the .tv namespace:

We are negotiating but we are tied because of the agreement that was signed before us. We cannot negotiate for an increase until 2016. Counter offers have been made but they are not acceptable to the government of the day. So we have to stick to our guns now. They’re giving us peanuts.

VeriSign, and its predecessor registry, run .tv under lease as a generic TLD. It is of course Tuvalu’s country-code. By GDP, Tuvalu is one of the poorest nations in the world.

The RNZI article reports that Tuvalu receives $2 million per year from VeriSign. That’s possibly sourced from the CIA World Factbook, which estimated that amount for 2006.

Yet the CIA also says that Tuvalu receives $1 million per quarter, based on a 12-year, $50 million deal that started in 2000.

For all these facts to be true, the deal must have been renegotiated at some point since it was originally signed.

.CO landrushers will be able to apply for trademark rejects

The landrush for .co domains will be extended by three days, to give people a chance to apply for strings that were rejected during the sunrise period, according to a registrar.

Key-Systems posted the news to its Facebook page earlier, but the .CO web site has yet to be updated with the same info.

The registrar said that the landrush, in which registrants apply for premium, non-trademarked strings, will now end on Friday, July 16 at 1600 UTC.

It also raised the prospect of a mini-spike in landrush applications in the last few days of the period.

Key-Systems said that domains covered by invalid sunrise applications – claimed trademarks which were rejected for one reason or another – will come up for grabs on July 12.

The list of such names, which could disclose the kind of bogus trademark claims made by those trying to game the system, will make very interesting reading. It’s due to be published July 10.