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Isn’t it about time for ICANN Las Vegas?

Kevin Murphy, July 23, 2010, Domain Policy

ICANN is now almost 12 years old, it’s held almost 40 public meetings in diverse cities all over the planet, and it’s never been to Vegas. Not once.

That’s got to change.

The organization is currently looking for a North American city in which to hold its fortieth public meeting, slated for next March. It’s the perfect opportunity for a company to put in a Las Vegas bid.

It’s about time ICANN headed to The Strip. It’s got to be the only industry organization in the world to never convene there. If the International Beverage Dispensing Equipment Association gets to have a Vegas convention, why can’t we?

Vegas is the conference center of North America, if not the world. There’s literally dozens of venues capable of handling a thousand or less beardy domain types, all within walking distance of each other.

If the conference facility prices are anything like the hotel room prices, ICANN and its sponsor should be able to find a real bargain.

For overseas visitors on a budget, flights to and hotels in Vegas can be very reasonable – rooms are generally subsidized by the money lost in the casinos downstairs.

The ICANN Fellowship Program would be massively oversubscribed. Live in the developing world? Fancy a free trip to Vegas? ICANN will be fighting off applicants with the proverbial stick.

But who would sponsor such a meeting?

Let me think… we’d be looking for a domain name company with deep pockets, something to sell, and no particular queasiness about sponsoring a Sin City event.

Can you think of anyone like that?

By March 2011, ICM Registry will very likely be in the pre-launch stages of the .xxx TLD.

The company will be looking for registrar partners, trying to assure IP interests that it’s not going to screw them, preparing for its sunrise and landrush periods… perfect timing.

Plus, we could have strippers at the Gala Event.

The stars are aligning on Las Vegas for ICANN 40.

ICANN, ICM – let’s make this happen.

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UNICEF looking for a .brand TLD partner

The UN-backed charity UNICEF has become the second organization, after Canon, to confirm publicly it is planning to apply for a .brand top-level domain.

The organization has put its feelers out for a registry operator to apply for and manage .unicef, publishing a Request For Information on its web site this week.

The RFI says:

Taking the long view, as time goes on a name such as www.donations.unicef and www.cards.unicef will become more intuitive in a more crowded Internet, and thus more valuable because the name reflects exactly that of an organization and declares what it does.

With unscrupulous individuals frequently seeking to capitalize on global tragedies to bilk money out of people through bogus web sites, charities could very well see some anti-phishing benefits from having their own sufficiently publicized TLD.

As I noted yesterday, it looks like the Red Cross may be thinking about a similar initiative.

UNICEF appears to want an operator that will be able to both manage the ICANN application process and then, for at least two years, the operation of the registry.

The deadline is July 30, so vendors have just a week to fill out and submit a questionnaire outlining their capabilities.

The questions appear, to me, to betray a degree of unfamiliarity with the DNS business and the new TLD process in particular.

What are the timeframes for developing and provisioning the application including all necessary activities (i.e. obtaining ICANN’ registration, facilitating the transition of current domains to the top level domain etc) from the moment a contract is signed with the selected vendor?

Good luck answering that one.

(Hat tip: newTLDs.tv)

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Brand owners drop hints about .brand TLD plans

The flood of negative comments to ICANN yesterday almost obscured the fact that a few companies have hinted that they will apply for their own “.brand” top-level domains.

As Antony Van Couvering first noted on the Minds + Machines blog, IBM’s comment on version four of the Draft Applicant Guidebook makes it pretty clear the idea of a .ibm is under consideration.

IBM’s filing raises concerns about the issues of sunrise periods and vertical integration, with particular reference as to whether .brand owners would be exempt from such things.

This suggests IBM is thinking about its own .brand.

If we make the (admittedly cheeky but probably realistic) assumption that the large majority of comments filed with ICANN are self-serving, we can infer that anyone taking in an interest in the nuts and bolts of running a new TLD has probably considered applying for one.

Other than IBM, I’ve notice two others so far: Microsoft and the American Red Cross.

Microsoft, while generally opposed to a large-scale new TLD launch, is very concerned about parts of the DAG that would allow ICANN to transfer a .brand delegation to a third party if the original registry were to shut down for whatever reason.

In other words, if Microsoft one day decided that running “.windows” was a waste of time and decided to shut it down, could ICANN appoint Apple to take it over?

I suggest that this is something that you only really worry about if you’re thinking about applying for a .brand TLD.

The American Red Cross comment contains references to a hypothetical scenario where it applies for its own TLD throughout.

It’s especially concerned that its administrative overheads would increase due to the high ICANN application fees, eating into the money it can spend on worthier causes.

To date, Canon is the only company I’m aware of to publicly state it will apply for a .brand.

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Will new TLDs be delayed by the trademark owner outcry?

Yesterday’s flood of criticism from big trademark holders has put another question mark next to ICANN’s plan to finalize the new top-level domain application process this year.

Heavy-hitters including Microsoft, AT&T, Time Warner, Adobe and Coca-Cola filed strong criticisms of the trademark-protection mechanisms in version four of the Draft Applicant Guidebook, and urged ICANN to delay the new TLD launch until the perceived weaknesses are addressed.

The concerns were echoed by the Motion Picture Association of America, the International Olympic Committee, Nestle, the International Trademark Association, Lego, the World Intellectual Property Organization, the American Intellectual Property Law Association, News Corp, the BBC and the American Bankers Association, among others.

Two ICANN registrars, MarkMonitor and Com Laude, also threw in with the anti-DAGv4 crowd. Indeed, MarkMonitor appears to have orchestrated at least a part of the trademark owner commentary.

It’s clear that many IP owners feel they’re being ignored by ICANN. Some organizations, notably WIPO and Time Warner, filed scathing criticisms of how ICANN makes policy.

These aren’t insignificant entities, even if some of their comments read like cases of throwing toys out of the pram.

After conversations with others, I know I’m not the only one who believes that this outcry could add delay to the new TLD process.

It certainly casts doubt on comments made by ICANN chair Peter Dengate Thrush in Brussels last month to the effect that the trademark protection portions of the DAG were very close to being finalized.

Trademark owners, including most of the outfits listed above, are concerned that the Uniform Rapid Suspension policy, designed to create a faster and cheaper version of the UDRP, has become bloated and now in some cases could take longer than a UDRP proceeding.

They also don’t think the Trademark Clearinghouse, a database of brands maintained by ICANN that new TLD registries would be obliged to protect, goes far enough to protect their marks. The previously proposed Globally Protected Marks List seems like a preferred alternative.

ICANN currently hopes to have the final guidebook close to readiness by its public meeting in Cartagena, Colombia, this December. Its board of directors will meet over a weekend in September to try to knock the document into shape. I don’t envy that task.

There’s a possibility, of course, that ICANN will soldier on with its time-line regardless. Dengate Thrush indicated in an interview last month that he did not want trademark issues to delay the launch any more than they have already.

Asked about the IP lobby’s concerns with the speed of the URS, he told the World Trademark Review:

I have conceptually no problem with making sure that expedited processes are available. If this one turns out to be too slow, we’ll do something else. What we can’t have is the hold up of the entire process until this is resolved.

It’s wait and see time again, but at the very least I think it’s pretty clear that the new TLD launch timeline is more in doubt today than it was 24 hours ago.

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Cybersquatters already hitting .co

Kevin Murphy, July 21, 2010, Domain Sales

Just over 24 hours after the general availability launch of the .co top-level domain, the secondary market is already beginning to fill up with dodgy domains.

Aftermarkets including Go Daddy and Sedo are currently listing some names that are unarguably typosquats of famous brands, and plenty more that very probably wouldn’t beat a UDRP complaint.

Go Daddy Auctions currently has almost 200 .co domains listed, Sedo over 500. Of those, I managed to find a few dozen dubious registrations, mostly on Go Daddy.

It beggars belief that, with millions of decent greenfield domains available, somebody had the failure of imagination to register wwwgoole.co. But they did. It’s currently listed on Sedo.

Other probable typosquats found on Sedo this evening include yahhoo.co, listed with a £10,000 price tag, as well as yayoo.co, geogle.co and barclys.co.

Go Daddy has listed some more obvious brands: poptarts.co and tostitos.co for the foodies, sanfranciscogiants.co, washingtonnationals.co and seattlemariners.co for the American football baseball fans.

Somebody who pays way too much attention to Rick Schwartz registered bpoilspill.co for the quick flip.

Cartoon characters for sale include mariobros.co and goofy.co. Celebrities duncanbannatyne.co and mikeposner.co both get squatted.

Yahoo, Apple, Facebook and Microsoft all get targeted, with yahoomaps.co, iphonedeals.co, facebookme.co and bingsearch.co all receiving price tags between $5,000 and $50,000.

For the Brits, centerparcs.co, virginuk.co and bbciplayer.co are also all up for auction.

Bear in mind that these are just the domains that have been registered and listed for auction in the first 24 hours. There’ll be plenty more not yet on the market.

I’d estimate about 5% to 10% of Go Daddy’s .co auctions are currently UDRP fodder.

This is why trademark holders hate new TLDs.

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