ICANN’s effort to squeeze out a process for approving new top-level domains has been about as easy and painless as giving birth, so it perhaps appropriate that it now expects to take at least nine months to gestate the very easiest applications.
The new version of the Applicant Guidebook, published Saturday, makes a number of changes to the expected new TLDs timetable, including the addition of an extra month to the minimum likely processing time for non-controversial strings.
This is not, as you might think, a result of the new objection powers granted to the Governmental Advisory Committee.
(UPDATE: On closer analysis, it appears that the timetable has in fact been rejiggered in order to give more time to the GAC’s Early Warning mechanism. Thanks to Mike, in the comments, for the correction.)
The Administrative Check part – the bit where ICANN goes through the applications to make sure they’ve all been correctly filed – that has been extended, from four weeks to eight.
ICANN has also shortened the first-round application-filing window by a month, to 60 days, off-setting the extended processing time.
New TLDs may start entering the root around the same time they were previously expected.
The timetable for the launch of new TLDs now looks a little like this:
June 20 – Applicant Guidebook approved in Singapore.
July-October 2011 – four-month communication/outreach period.
November-December 2011 – first-round application window
October 2012 – first new TLDs delegated to DNS root.
The new Guidebook advises applicants to avoid waiting to the last minute to file their applications, due to the complexity of the new TLD Application System (TAS) it’s created.
Given the application period is likely to end shortly after the end of year holiday period, I expect applicants will have plenty of impetus to get their applications in early without encouragement.
ICANN has significantly strengthened brand-owner protections in new top-level domains by proposing, amongst other things, a new “loser pays” model for some cybersquatting disputes.
The Uniform Rapid Suspension process, which is designed to give trademark owners a quick, cheap way to take down obvious examples of cybersquatting, may now occasionally carry a response fee.
According to ICANN’s newly revised Applicant Guidebook, which was published early this morning:
A limited “loser pays” model has been adopted for the URS. Complaints listing twenty-six (26) or more disputed domain names will be subject to an Response Fee which will be refundable to the prevailing party. Under no circumstances shall the Response Fee exceed the fee charged to the Complainant.
In other words, if a somebody registers more than 25 domains that appear to infringe upon the trademarks of a single company, they will have to pay a few hundred dollars, refundable, if they want to defend their case. Judging from UDRP history, this will likely apply to very few people.
The number 25 comes from the May 2009 report of ICANN’s Implementation Recommendation Team, which devised many of the new gTLD program’s rights protection mechanisms.
This change is one of several made in the new Guidebook, addressing concerns raised by the Governmental Advisory Committee, which had consulted closely with the IP lobby.
The GAC didn’t get everything it wanted, however. It had asked for repeat cybersquatters to lose their right to respond under the URS, but ICANN declined, citing the need for due process.
But the Guidebook does now also require new TLD registry operators to offer two types of rights protection mechanism during their launch phase, as the GAC had requested.
Whereas earlier drafts mandated either a Trademark Claims service or a Sunrise period, now registries will have no choice: they have to offer both at a minimum.
The Trademark Claims services notifies registrants if they try to register a domain name that matches a trademark registered in a central Trademark Clearinghouse.
The registrant will have to certify that they’re not infringing any rights before they get the domain. If they do register it, the affected trademark holder will receive a notification that the domain has been registered and can choose to take action such as filing a URS claim.
The idea behind the service is to deter cybersquatters, possibly reducing brand owners’ costs from having to defensively register their names in all new TLDs.
The Sunrise period, which is now also mandatory, is not entirely dissimilar to the sunrise periods we’ve come to expect from new TLD launches over recent years.
The new Guidebook states that the Trademark Claims service must be offered for at least 60 days after a new TLD enters general availability and the Sunrise must be at least 30 days before.
The fact that both services are now mandatory has helped ICANN address the thorny question of what should constitute a valid trademark.
Earlier drafts of the Guidebook required trademarks to have been subject to “substantive review” – a check by a national authority that the trademark is for real and in use.
The worry was that speculators could game the system by picking up large numbers of trademarks in countries that give them away like candy. It’s happened before.
But the review requirement was criticized by the GAC and others as it excluded trademarks in much of the world outside of the US.
In response to these criticisms, ICANN has removed the reference to substantive review. Instead, the yet-to-be-decided manager of the Trademark Clearinghouse will be given the task of validating that each trademark submitted is legit.
Companies need only submit a declaration and a single piece of evidence of use in order to get into the Clearinghouse, thus enabling them to partake of the Sunrise.
No such validation will be required in order to participate in the Trademark Claims service, though brand owners will need to be listed in the Clearinghouse for both mechanisms.
Evidence of use will also be needed to file URS complaints, but that can be done separately at the time of filing, with no need for a Clearinghouse registration.
ICANN chairman Peter Dengate Thrush, himself an IP lawyer, once stated, possibly in jest, that no matter what you do, you can be certain that IP lawyers will demand more protections.
Whether the rights protections mechanisms included in the Guidebook are now sufficient to calm trademark interests’ nerves remains to be seen.
ICANN has made some significant concessions to government demands in the newly published revision of its new top-level domains Applicant Guidebook.
After lengthy consultations with its Governmental Advisory Committee over the last few months, ICANN has updated the rulebook to address the vast majority of GAC concerns.
We’ve gone from the “proposed final Applicant Guidebook” published in November to the “April 2011 Discussion Draft” that appeared on the ICANN web site in the wee hours of this morning.
On first perusal, it appears that ICANN has walked the fine lines between GAC advice, hard-fought community consensus and common sense more or less successfully.
While the new Guidebook gives plenty of ground to the GAC, making it a more integral part of the new TLDs approval process, it avoids adopting some of its more problematic requests.
In this post, I’ll look at the powers ICANN has given to governments to object to TLDs.
Early Warning System
While ICANN has sensibly not given individual governments the right to veto TLDs they are not happy with, they do get substantially more input into the approval process than in previous drafts.
The major update to the Guidebook is a new Early Warning system that will allow governments to pre-object to TLDs they don’t like.
An Early Warning, which can only be filed by the GAC chair, is “an indication that the application is seen as potentially problematic by one or more governments.”
Applicants in receipt of such a warning will have 21 days to decide whether to drop out of the process, receiving a $148,000 refund, 80% of their $185,000 application fee.
But they won’t have to. The warning is just a heads-up that the GAC or some of its members may formally object at a later stage. A warning does not represent a GAC consensus position.
The Early Warning process will run for 60 days, at the same time as the public comment period that begins the day the applications are published.
Advice of Doom
Any applicants that decide to ignore such a warning face the possibility of receiving a formal GAC objection, which could come at any point in the first seven months after the applications are published.
This is now being called “GAC Advice on New gTLDs”. It could be quite a powerful tool:
GAC Advice on New gTLDs that includes a consensus statement from the GAC that an application should not proceed as submitted, and that includes a thorough explanation of the public policy basis for such advice, will create a strong presumption for the Board that the application should not be approved.
This is pretty close to a GAC veto, but it crucially requires GAC consensus. The Guidebook explains:
GAC Advice on New gTLDs should identify objecting countries, the public policy basis for the objection, and the process by which consensus was reached.
Even if the GAC reaches consensus, the ICANN board will be able to overrule its objections in accordance with its bylaws, in much the same way it just did with .xxx (in practice, I suspect .xxx may ultimately prove a fairly unique exception to the rule).
The Guidebook indicates that any wishy-washy, non-consensus, politician-speak advice given by the GAC will not be considered grounds for rejecting an application. The objection must be specific, grounded, and it must have support.
Importantly, ICANN has not conceded to the GAC’s request to allow applicants to amend their applications to remedy the GAC’s concerns.
As I noted earlier in the week, this could have led to companies gaming the system, and ICANN has ruled out amendments for precisely that reason.
Individual governments will of course be allowed to object to any application using any of the other procedures that the Guidebook allows, such as the Community Objection.
ICANN’s problem is that these processes carry third-party fees, and governments don’t think they should have to pay these fees (for some reason that’s never been adequately explained).
Addressing this concern, the new Guidebook says that ICANN will cover each national government to the tune of $50,000 to fund a single objection.
That’s a total of potentially well over $1 million, funded from ICANN’s reserves. ICANN expects that governments will coordinate their objections to limit its costs.
Overall, it appears that ICANN has addressed pretty much everything the GAC wanted in terms of objections procedures. With a couple of reasonable exceptions, the GAC has received what it asked for.
Members may not be completely happy with ICANN’s decrees on what form GAC advice must take in order to have a useful impact, but in general it seems that this could well now be a closed issue.
In my next post, I’ll look at how intellectual property protection changes in the new Guidebook.
Click here: icmregistry.xxx, then come back.
That’s right. After ICM Registry’s almost 11 years of campaigning, and almost $20 million in legal and other expenses, .xxx domain names are actually live in the domain name system.
ICANN, IANA, the US government and VeriSign, in that order, have all agreed to delegate the internet’s newest gTLD, and the first few .xxx domains went live within the last couple hours.
IANA has a .xxx page, complete with a lengthy delegation report (in a snazzy new pdf format) that broadly explains the convoluted process ICANN used to ultimately, albeit reluctantly, approve the TLD.
Five domain names associated with online poker sites have been seized by the FBI as part of an investigation that has also seen 11 people indicted.
The principals of PokerStars, Absolute Poker and Full Tilt Poker, along with third-party “payment processors”, stand accused of engaging in a massive money laundering scheme in order to accept billions of dollars of payments from American gamblers in violation of US laws.
The charges carry possible maximum sentences of between five and 30 years in prison, along with substantial monetary fines. Two men have been arrested, a third is due to be arraigned, and the remainder are currently outside of the US, according to a press release (pdf).
The US Attorney for the Southern District of New York said five domain names have been seized by the FBI in connection with the prosecutions.
It’s not yet clear which domains have been seized.
Unlike previous recent seizures, which were carried out by the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, this time the FBI appears to be the responsible agency.
And this time, these aren’t two-bit file-sharing forums or Chinese knock-off merchandise sites, we’re talking about businesses that are perfectly legal in many jurisdictions, clearing billions in revenue.
But according to US Attorney’s charges, the companies carried out an elaborate plan to cover up the sources of their revenue through third parties and phoney bank accounts.
The companies are even alleged to have made multi-million dollar investments in failing banks in order to get them to turn a blind eye to the illicit gambling activities.
It appears that the FBI went straight to the .com registry, VeriSign, as some of the affected domains appear to be registered through UK-based corporate registrar Com Laude.
If you’re wondering whether this is yet another confirmation that all .com domains are subject to US jurisdiction, this is your takeaway sentence, from Manhattan US Attorney Preet Bharara:
Foreign firms that choose to operate in the United States are not free to flout the laws they don’t like simply because they can’t bear to be parted from their profits.
The suits seek $3 billion in allegedly ill-gotten gains to be returned.