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Investors circle ICM as .xxx enters home straight

ICM Registry’s board of directors has approved a $5 million funding round, following the recent decision by ICANN to put the .xxx top-level domain onto the path to approval.

ICM president Stuart Lawley tells me he’s underwritten the whole round himself, already injecting another $500,000 of his own money into the company.

Venture capital investors have already approached the company, following the Brussels decision two weeks ago, according to Lawley.

In Brussels, ICANN’s board resolved to re-enter contract negotiations with ICM, following years of wrangling with ICANN’s appeals and independent review processes.

While .xxx’s approval and entry to the DNS root is not a slam-dunk, the only major hurdle appears to be ICANN’s Governmental Advisory Committee, and many believe the GAC is unlikely to stick its neck out on such a controversial issue.

While demand for .xxx domains is yet to be proven, there are already 162,000 pre-registrations, which would work out to a $10 million business, not including premium sunrise and landrush fees.

A report in Business Week last week said ICM could bring in $200 million per year in revenue on registrations alone.

I think that’s a pretty ambitious prediction, to be honest, and I can’t help but wonder in Business Week got ICM’s ten-year and one-year projections mixed up.

Even at $60 a pop, that’s still 3.3 million registered domains. The stars will have to align in unexpected ways for .xxx to reach that kind of penetration (pun intended).

ICM has previously projected near-term registrations in the low-mid hundreds of thousands.

ICM is currently owned by a close-knit group of investors, mainly Lawley’s circle and ICM’s management, with Lawley himself owning roughly 70% of the business.

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More details on the Tuvalu-VeriSign deal

VeriSign offered Tuvalu an extra $1 million a year in exchange for the continuing right to run .tv, but the tiny island nation declined, according to a new interview.

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation has a short audio piece over here on the strained relationship between VeriSign and Tuvalu, including an interview with finance minister Lotoala Metia.

Tuvalu gets about $2.2 million a year from VeriSign, according to the piece, but the government thinks it’s being short-changed.

VeriSign offered the country another $1 million a year, on the condition that the deal would be extended for five more years. It currently expires in 2016. Tuvalu declined.

The company declined to comment to ABC, but AusRegistry chief Adrian Kinderis stepped up to defend the deal, pointing out that VeriSign took all the risk.

Kinderis also accepted the interviewer’s suggestion that the new TLD round could leave .tv “obsolete”.

Here’s a link to the stream.

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RapidShare files UDRP claim on Rapid.org

Kevin Murphy, July 7, 2010, Domain Policy

RapidShare, confidence bolstered by a number of recent UDRP wins against domains that contain its trademark, has now turned its attention to some more dubious challenges.

The German file-sharing service has lately filed UDRP claims on the domains rapid4me.com, rapidownload.net, rapidpiracy.com and rapid.org, none of which contain its full “rapidshare” trademark.

The sites in question all relate to sharing files (mostly copyrighted works) on RapidShare. Rapid.org bounces visitors to Bolt.org, a file-sharing forum for predominantly pirated content.

It’s a bit of a stretch to see how any of these domains could be seen to be confusingly similar to the RapidShare trademark. But not, I think, a stretch too far for many UDRP panelists.

Ironically, Rapid.org, which must be worth a fair bit on the aftermarket, was originally registered in 1997 by an IP-protection company.

RapidShare has filed dozens of UDRP claims over the last few months, initially targeting file-sharing sites that utilized rival services, before broadening its campaign to also hit RapidShare-centric sites.

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Lego launches attack on new TLDs

Could little yellow plastic men be the death of the new top-level domain process?

Toymaker Lego has filed a scathing criticism of ICANN’s latest Draft Applicant Guidebook for prospective new TLD registries, saying it ignores trademark holders.

Lego, one of the most prolific enforcers of trademarks via the UDRP, said that the latest DAG “has not yet resolved the overarching trademark issue”.

DAG v4 contains new protections designed to make it easier for trademark holders to defend their rights in new TLD namespaces. But Lego reckons these protections are useless.

The Trademark Clearinghouse is NOT a rights protection mechanism but just a database. Such a database does not solve the overarching trademark issues that were intended to be addressed.

Lego also says that the Uniform Rapid Suspension service outlined in DAG v4 is much weaker than it wanted.

“It doesn’t seem to be more rapid or cheaper than the ordinary UDRP,” Lego’s deputy general counsel Peter Kjaer wrote.

Lego thinks that a Globally Protected Marks List, which was at one time under consideration for inclusion in the DAG, would be the best mechanism to protect trademarks.

ICANN still seems to ignore that cybersquatting and all kinds of fraud on the internet is increasing in number and DAG 4 contains nothing that shows trademark owners that ICANN has taken our concerns seriously.

The comment, which is repeated verbatim in a letter from Arla Foods also filed today, is the strongest language yet from the IP lobby in the DAG v4 comment period.

Rumblings at the ICANN meeting Brussels two weeks ago, and earlier, suggest that some companies may consider filing lawsuits to delay the new TLD process, if they don’t get what they want in the final Applicant Guidebook.

ICANN’s top brass, meanwhile, are hopeful of resolving the trademark issues soon, and getting the guidebook close to completion, if not complete, by the Cartagena meeting in December.

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Tuvalu not happy with VeriSign deal

The government of the Pacific island nation of Tuvalu feels it’s getting a raw deal under its current contract with .tv registry manager VeriSign.

According to Radio New Zealand International, Tuvalu finance minister Lotoala Metia said VeriSign pays “peanuts” for the right to run the .tv namespace:

We are negotiating but we are tied because of the agreement that was signed before us. We cannot negotiate for an increase until 2016. Counter offers have been made but they are not acceptable to the government of the day. So we have to stick to our guns now. They’re giving us peanuts.

VeriSign, and its predecessor registry, run .tv under lease as a generic TLD. It is of course Tuvalu’s country-code. By GDP, Tuvalu is one of the poorest nations in the world.

The RNZI article reports that Tuvalu receives $2 million per year from VeriSign. That’s possibly sourced from the CIA World Factbook, which estimated that amount for 2006.

Yet the CIA also says that Tuvalu receives $1 million per quarter, based on a 12-year, $50 million deal that started in 2000.

For all these facts to be true, the deal must have been renegotiated at some point since it was originally signed.

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