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Downtime emerges as key barrier to Trademark Clearinghouse changes

Kevin Murphy, October 10, 2012, Domain Services

The risk of embarrassing technical glitches is now the major stumbling block in discussions about the best way to deploy the forthcoming Trademark Clearinghouse for new gTLDs.

ICANN is worried about the “reputational implications” of the TMCH going offline if, as proposed by domain name registries, it is in the “critical path” of the live registration process.

The concerns emerged in a letter earlier this week, and were discussed during an ICANN conference call yesterday.

The TMCH is expected to be a big database of trademarks, used to support the Trademark Claims and Sunrise periods that new gTLD registries will have to offer.

The policy behind both rights protection mechanisms is settled (essentially), but the actual technical implementation is still open to question.

While ICANN and its two contractors — IBM and Deloitte — have been quietly working on their favored model for some months, the registries that will support most new gTLDs have their own model.

Neustar, ARI Registry Services, Verisign and Demand Media have proposed a TMCH design that they say would be less costly to registries (and therefore brand owners) as well as having certain security benefits.

The problem with the registry’s plan is that it calls for real-time interactions between registrars, registries and the TMCH during the Trademark Claims phase of new gTLD launches.

This would require the Clearinghouse to operate with 100% up-time, which makes ICANN very nervous. It said in its letter this week:

Though requirements for resiliency to guard against such failures will be in place, the risk and impact of a failure incident in a centralized live query system are significant and have an impact on the reputation and, therefore, the effectiveness of the rights protection mechanisms supported by the Trademark Clearinghouse. Such an event could have reputational implications for the Clearinghouse and the New gTLD Program.

If the Clearinghouse went down, the argument goes, it would prevent domain names being registered in new gTLDs.

This would look very bad for ICANN, which has already experienced a few embarrassing technical problems with the program. How its policies and processes perform with live gTLDs will be scrutinized intensely.

But the registries say they’ve mitigated the problem as much as they can in their centralized model.

“It only puts the Trademark Clearinghouse in the critical path for registration for a limited number of registrations,” Neustar vice president Jeff Neuman said on yesterday’s call.

“In our model if a domain name does not match a trademark in the Clearinghouse then the Clearinghouse never sees it, it doesn’t matter if the Clearinghouse is up or down,” he said.

The negative impact of downtime in this scenario is that registrars would not be able to show would-be registrants Trademark Claims notices. But it would not necessarily enable cybersquatting.

Neuman further argued that the TMCH should be covered by the same kinds of service level agreements and data escrow requirements as contracted gTLD registries, minimizing the risk of downtime.

The second major hurdle to the implementation talks is the relative lack to date of input from brand owners.

The intellectual property community has previously expressed reservations about any TMCH model that would enable data mining by bad actors or opportunistic registrars and registries.

Yes, it’s a data privacy issue. Brand owners are worried that the contents of the Clearinghouse could be used by competitors to find holes in their trademark protection strategies, or by scammers.

While yesterday’s call had more input from the trademark community, the real work will come next Wednesday during a session at ICANN 45 in Toronto.

Dyn grabs $38 million in funding

Kevin Murphy, October 3, 2012, Domain Services

Managed DNS service provider Dyn has secured a $38 million investment from venture capital firm North Bridge.

The minority investment is Dyn’s first. It’s been bootstrapped since its founding 11 years ago, according to founder and CEO Jeremy Hitchcock.

As part of the deal, noted tech investor Jason Calacanis has joined Dyn’s board, along with Hitchcock, company co-founder Tom Daly and two North Bridge partners, Ric Fulop and Russ Pyle.

“I am not building an exit strategy. I am creating an economic engine,” Hitchcock said in an open letter to customers.

“Plus, we had experienced 70 percent growth year over year. We were doing a pretty good job of growing by ourselves but we want to be a step ahead,” he said.

Melbourne IT holding new gTLD trademarks summit

Kevin Murphy, August 29, 2012, Domain Services

Melbourne IT will hold a half-day conference on trademark protection in new gTLDs next month in Washington DC.

Google, Microsoft, Donuts, and the Association of National Advertisers are among those expected to take part in the discussion.

The meeting follows on from Melbourne IT’s recent anti-cybersquatting proposal, which calls for stronger protections for brands that are frequent targets of trademark infringement.

The panel includes many familiar faces from ICANN meetings. Applicant interests are represented, albeit by a minority of the panelists.

It will be moderated by Melbourne IT chief strategy officer (and ICANN vice-chair) Bruce Tonkin. Here’s the full line-up:

Andrew Abrams, Trademark Counsel, Google

James L. Bikoff, Partner, Silverberg, Goldman & Bikoff

Steve DelBianco, Executive Director, NetChoice and Vice Chair Policy Coordination, ICANN GNSO Commercial Business Users Constituency

Dan Jaffe, Group EVP Government Relations, Association of National Advertisers

Jon Nevett, Co-Founder, Donuts

Russell Pangborn, Associate General Counsel – Trademarks, Microsoft

Craig Schwartz, General Manager – Registry Programs, BITS/The Financial Services Roundtable

Brian J. Winterfeldt, Partner, Steptoe & Johnston and ICANN GNSO Counselor (Intellectual Property Constituency)

The event starts at 1.30pm local time at the Capital Hilton in DC on September 18. An RSVP is needed. There’s no official word on remote participation yet.

Refunds uncertain as .nxt says sorry for cancelation

Kevin Murphy, August 24, 2012, Domain Services

It’s not yet clear whether people who paid for tickets for the .nxt conference will get full refunds.

In an apologetic email sent to attendees last night, organizer Kieren McCarthy said that .nxt is “trying to recoup” money already paid to the conference venue. The email states in part:

For a number of reasons – the most significant being the fact that the ICANN process is still in flux – we were not able to get the number of attendees or sponsors needed.

Having communicated with a large number of people that the conference was directly aimed at, the conclusion would appear to be: right idea, wrong time. The conference was designed as a meeting place for a new industry to meet and interact. It is now clear that that effort was premature.

Unfortunately that does not resolve the fact that you are currently out of pocket, whether through a conference ticket, hotel room or flight to London.

.Nxt is currently trying to recoup money we have paid to the hotel venue so we are in a position to reimburse at least some of those costs. We will keep in touch with any developments.

Fewer than 100 people were registered for the $950-a-ticket three-day event, .nxt said. The first two conferences, held in San Francisco last year, attracted closer to double that number.

The company plans to offer some of its planned sessions online instead, according to the email and a statement on the conference web site.

McCarthy is currently calling would-be attendees to explain the situation. Many have been understanding, according to the email.

Some attendees have told us they want full refunds for their tickets and hotel rooms, when the hotel was booked via .nxt. Recouping money spent on airfare is a different matter, of course.

The conference, which also left some attendees out of pocket when it was postponed in June, is unlikely to return.

Confirmed: .nxt conference canceled

Kevin Murphy, August 23, 2012, Domain Services

The .nxt conference on new gTLDs has indeed been canceled, according to organizer Kieren McCarthy.

The show was expected to run next week, August 29-31, in London, following two successful events in San Francisco last year.

It was originally expected to run in June, but was postponed in May due to ICANN-related program delays.

I had planned to hold off posting the news until I had the full details, but I’ve received several emails this morning from people wondering what was going on so I thought I’d share what I know.

McCarthy is currently phoning attendees individually to explain the situation, so if you’re already a paid-up delegate I expect you’ll be getting a call soon. An announcement is expected later today.

ARI Registry Services tweeted this morning that .nxt is not offering refunds, but I cannot confirm that at this time.

More when we get it…