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ICANN chief cancels .nxt keynote

Kevin Murphy, February 8, 2011, Domain Registries

With the first-ever .nxt conference on new top-level domains just hours away from opening its doors, it looks like star speaker Rod Beckstrom has canceled his appearance.

ICANN’s president and CEO, who was featured prominently on the web site of the San Francisco conference as recently as Sunday, no longer appears on the agenda.

His keynote slot, scheduled for 10am local tomorrow, has been filled by Kurt Pritz, ICANN’s senior vice president of stakeholder relations and point man for the new TLD program.

While Pritz perhaps lacks the name recognition and stage presence of Beckstrom, it could be argued that his more granular insight into the program may actually make him a better-value speaker.

Juan Diego Calle, CEO of .CO Internet, is still scheduled for the second keynote, on Wednesday. Here’s hoping he can provide an update on .co’s post-Super Bowl performance.

UPDATE: Conference organizer Kieren McCarthy has confirmed that Beckstrom was unable to make it to San Francisco in time for the keynote, but said he may still attend later.

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99 super-short .uk domains registered

Kevin Murphy, February 8, 2011, Domain Sales

Nominet, the .uk registry, has allocated 99 one and two-letter .uk domain names to trademark holders including the Financial Times and Manchester United.

Most of the companies successfully applying for short .co.uk, .org.uk and .net.uk domains under Nominet’s recently closed sunrise period are household names.

Most also chose to acquire both .org.uk and .co.uk variants of their trademark. Only ten of the single-letter and two of the single-number options were claimed. Yahoo managed to get y.co.uk.

Overstock.com, which is currently branding itself as o.co, did not receive o.co.uk, despite having a trademark on the term, possibly for the reasons I outlined here.

One of the big winners appears to be a domainer. Scott Jones acquired 3.org.uk, s.co.uk, s.org.uk, pc.co.uk and pc.org.uk.

Nominet said: “A small number of contested domains will be involved in an auction phase to determine the successful registrant.”

The first sunrise was for owners of UK registered trademarks. The next round, set to kick off February 14, is for owners of “unregistered” rights.

The full list of domains registered can be downloaded here.

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UDRP reform effort begins

Kevin Murphy, February 5, 2011, Domain Policy

ICANN has kicked off a review of its Uniform Dispute Resolution Policy, the occasionally controversial process used to adjudicate cybersquatting complaints.

The GNSO Council on Thursday voted to ask ICANN staff for a so-called “Issues Report” on UDRP, indicating that reform of the process is likely.

This is the relevant portion of the resolution, passed unanimously:

RESOLVED #2, the GNSO Council requests an Issues Report on the current state of the UDRP. This effort should consider:

* How the UDRP has addressed the problem of cybersquatting to date, and any insufficiencies/inequalities associated with the process.

* Whether the definition of cybersquatting inherent within the existing UDRP language needs to be reviewed or updated. The Issue Report should include suggestions for how a possible PDP on this issue might be managed.

Issues Reports commissioned by the Council are expected within 15 days, and 15 days after that the Council is expected to vote on whether to kick off a Policy Development Process.

A PDP could lead to changes to the UDRP that would be binding on all ICANN-accredited registrars and their customers.

While the UDRP has proven very effective at dealing with clear-cut cases of cybersquatting over the last 12 years, critics claim that it is often interpreted too broadly in favor of trademark interests.

If you read this blog regularly, you’ll know I frequently report on unfathomable UDRP decisions, but these are generally the exception rather than the rule.

Unrelated to UDRP, the GNSO Council has also voted against asking ICANN for an Issues Report on registry/registrar best practices for mitigating domain abuse.

Business interests wanted registrars to take more measures (voluntarily) to curb activities such as phishing, but registrars think this kind of rule-making is beyond the scope of the GNSO.

After a lot of heated debate and arcane procedural wrangling, the Council decided instead to ask for a “discussion paper”, a term that has no meaning under ICANN’s rules, meaning a PDP is less likely.

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Four more ICANN 40 sponsors revealed

Kevin Murphy, February 3, 2011, Domain Policy

Iron Mountain, IronDNS, RegistryPro and the Public Interest Registry have added their names to the list of companies prepared to fork out big bucks to sponsor ICANN’s San Francisco meeting.

That brings the total number of ICANN 40 sponsors revealed so far to five, after VeriSign’s unprecedented $500,000 “Diamond” deal.

The new sponsors have splashed out more modest fees. Of the six tiers of sponsorship available, all four have opted for least expensive two.

Iron Mountain, IronDNS and RegistryPro have all chosen the same tiers as they have before, but they are likely paying more since ICANN has doubled its list prices since last year.

Meanwhile, .org manager PIR has downgraded to a $25,000 “Silver” package, having been a “Gold” sponsor at the Cartagena meeting.

The deadline for signing sponsorship deals and handing over artwork is February 15.

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ICANN chair expects more new TLDs delay

Kevin Murphy, February 3, 2011, Domain Registries

ICANN’s new top-level domains program is unlikely to be approved at its San Francisco meeting next month, according to chairman Peter Dengate Thrush.

“We don’t think we’ll be able to approve the final applicant guidebook in March,” he said in a new interview with World Trademark Review.

This confirms my suspicion that changes to the Guidebook made following the upcoming meeting between ICANN and its Governmental Advisory Committee may be too extensive for ICANN to rubber-stamp without first consulting the community.

The ICANN board and the GAC are due to meet in Brussels, February 28 and March 1, to discuss the GAC’s outstanding concerns.

Chief among these concerns is trademark protection, where the GAC is pretty much aligned with the interests of the intellectual property constituency.

Brussels will also cover matters such as geographic names protection and procedures for dealing with controversial strings that governments may want to object to.

While ICANN is under no obligation to adopt the GAC’s suggestions wholesale, if it makes substantial concessions its bylaws will likely demand more public comment on the changes.

ICANN’s board indicated last week that it plans to tell the GAC where it disagrees with its advice at a consultation March 17, one day before its San Francisco meeting.

It also said that it plans to approve a Guidebook “as close as practically possible to the form as set out in the Proposed Final Applicant Guidebook” published in November.

UPDATE: I had an opportunity to put Dengate Thrush’s comments to ICANN CEO Rod Beckstrom this afternoon. He said: “I’m not going to forecast when the final Applicant Guidebook will be approved.”

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