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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.

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Should new gTLD objections have an appeals process?

Kevin Murphy, December 13, 2013, Domain Policy

That’s the question the ICANN Ombudsman is asking today.

Several new gTLD applicants that have lost objections — many in decisions that appear to diverge from ICANN’s rules or are inconsistent with other decisions — have been in touch to ask for redress, Ombudsman Chris LaHatte blogged this morning. He wrote:

The real problem as it seems to me, is that apart from the internal review procedures, there is no ability to seek an appeal from the panel decisions. A number of complainants had mentioned the need for an appeal process, emphasising that some of the decisions were in their view, inconsistent or not following the majority views.

LaHatte noted that his role is to decide issues of fairness in ICANN’s own decisions. As objections are all handled by third-party arbitration bodies, it’s not at all clear whether he has any authority at all over objection decisions.

Applicants have also been invoking the Reconsideration process en masse in an attempt to have successful objections overturned, but all Reconsideration requests to date have been rejected.

Reconsideration generally requires that the requester provide ICANN with new evidence that was not considered at the time of the original decision.

The ICANN Board Governance Committee, which handles Reconsideration, appears to be happy to leave objections in the hands of the arbitrators so far.

But the new gTLD objection process is a bit of a joke at the moment.

String Confusion Objection panelists have delivered inconsistent decisions, while Community Objection and Limited Public Interest Objection panels often seem to be making up rules as they go.

So should ICANN have an appeals process? If one is created it will undoubtedly be broadly used.

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Islamic states to “officially object” to .islam

Kevin Murphy, December 13, 2013, Domain Policy

The Organization for Islamic Cooperation has decided to “file an official objection to the use of gTLDs .Islam and .Halal”, following a summit of 56 foreign ministers.

In a resolution (pdf) from the OIC’s high-level summit in Guinea this week, the organization also said it will become “an effective member” of ICANN, closely monitoring its work.

As previously reported, ICANN’s Governmental Advisory Committee was unable to reach a consensus to object to .islam and .halal, leaving it to ICANN’s board of directors to decide whether to approve them.

The OIC’s resolution is expected to become an important input to that decision-making process, after GAC chair Heather Dryden asked ICANN to take note of the Guinea meeting’s output.

The resolution also calls for the OIC to investigate how to run its own Islamic gTLDs.

The OIC has of course missed the boat by several months if it wants to file an objection to these gTLDs within the rules of the new gTLD program.

Instead, it’s going to have to hope that its entreaties to the ICANN board will be effective.

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TMCH extends Trademark Claims indefinitely, kinda

Kevin Murphy, December 11, 2013, Domain Services

The Trademark Clearinghouse is to give the intellectual property lobby something that it’s been crying out for for years — an indefinite extension of parts of the Trademark Claims service.

And it’s going to be free.

Trademark Claims is a mandatory service for all new gTLD operators, sending pre-registration warnings to registrants and post-registration alerts to mark owners whenever a domain matching a trademark is registered.

But it only runs for 90 days, per the ICANN new gTLD contracts, which TMCH project director Jan Corstens said is IP owners’ “number one complaint” about the system.

So the TMCH is going to extend the post-registration alerts half of the service indefinitely.

When the first new gTLDs officially end their Claims periods next year, the TMCH will continue to send out alerts to mark owners (or, in 90% of cases, their registrar “agents”) when matching domains are registered.

Would-be registrants will only receive their pre-registration warnings for the original 90-day period.

Corstens said that the pre-registration side of Claims would only be possible with the cooperation of registries and registrars, and that there’s a lot of reluctance to help out.

“A lot of them are not really interested in doing that,” he said. “I understand it takes work, and I understand they think it could demotivate potential registrants.”

Trademark owners that have directly registered with the Clearinghouse, rather than going through an agent, will get the extended service for no added charge.

However, Corstens made it clear that the TMCH is not trying to compete with registrars — such as MarkMonitor and Melbourne IT — that already offer zone file monitoring services to trademark owners.

“We know the market exists,” he said. “It’s not our intention to become a monopoly. We will deliver it to them, of course, and assume they can integrate with it.”

Agents will be able to plug the service into their existing products if they wish, he said.

There are a few initial limitations with the new TMCH service such that its registrar agents may not find it particularly labor-saving.

First, only domains that exactly match labels in the Clearinghouse will generate alerts.

By contrast, brand-monitoring registrars typically generate alerts when the trademark is a substring of the domain. To carry on doing this they’ll need to carry on monitoring zone files anyway.

Second, the TMCH service only currently covers new gTLDs applied for in the 2012 round. It doesn’t cover .com, for example, or any other legacy gTLD.

Corstens said both of these limitations may be addressed in future releases. The first Trademark Claims period isn’t due to end until March, so there’s time to make changes, he said.

He added that he hopes the extension of Claims will lead to an uptick in the the number of trademarks being registered in the TMCH. Currently there are about 20,000.

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Go Daddy to take $2,500 profit on Donuts’ first-day domains

Kevin Murphy, December 11, 2013, Domain Registrars

Donuts’ pricey Early Access Program for its new gTLDs could prove quite lucrative for registrars.

Go Daddy today revealed that it’s charging $12,500 and up for first-day “priority” registrations in 14 Donuts gTLDs, a $2,500 profit on Donuts’ EAP registry fee, which I believe is $10,000.

The EAP is Donuts’ alternative to a traditional landrush period.

Rather than charging premium landrush fees and then running an auction for contested domains, every available domain has a standard premium buy-it-now price that is reduced every day for a week until the fee hits the standard reg fee.

It’s Dutch-auction-like, with a first-come-first-served component.

The EAP registry fees start at $10,000, go to $2,500 on day two, $950 on day three, $500 on day four and $100 from days five through day seven. Then they go to the base fee, which depends on gTLD but typically translates to about $40 at the check-out.

Go Daddy’s respective EAP retail prices are $12,539.99, $3,164.99, $1,239.99, $689.99 and $189.99.

Complicating matters, these are currently “priority pre-registration” fees, so the company will still have to successfully grab the pre-registered names from the registry when they become available.

While customers are billed today, they may not get the name they want. If Go Daddy fails to secure the name it will issue a full refund.

Complicating matters further, the company is accepting multiple pre-registrations on any given name and will auction it off to the highest bidder if more than one person pre-registers at the same level and Go Daddy manages to grab the name.

So $12,500 may just be the tip of the iceberg.

Complicating matters further further, Go Daddy’s site is currently not particularly clear — at least to this elderly hack — which components of its fees are refundable and which are not.

This slogan, currently in use on the Go Daddy pre-reg site, appears to me to be absolute nonsense.

Horseshit

The 14 Donuts gTLD currently on offer are: .estate, .photography, .ventures, .guru, .bike, .clothing, .gallery, .singles, .camera, .lighting, .plumbing, .equipment, .graphics and .holdings.

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