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Aussie registrar trademarks “Whois”

An Australian domain name registrar has secured a trademark on the word “Whois”.

Whois Pty Ltd, which runs whois.com.au, said it has been granted an Australian trademark on the word in the class of “business consulting and information services”.

It looks rather like the company is using the award as a way to promote its own trademark protection services.

I shudder to think what could happen if the firm decided to try to enforce the mark against other registrars.

Or, come to think of it, what would happen if it tried to secure “whois” in a new TLD sunrise period.

I’m not a lawyer, but I imagine that the fact that the word “Whois” has been in use for almost 30 years, pre-dating the creation of the DNS itself, might prove a useful defense.

RFC 812, published in March 1982, is the first use of the word I’m aware of.

It does not appear that there are currently any live US trademarks on the term.

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ICANN registrar’s domain listed for sale on Sedo

When selecting a domain name registrar there are often clues you can use to determine broadly whether a firm is entirely reliable, but this one is new to me.

Vivid Domains, a small-time, seven-year-old ICANN-accredited registrar, currently has its primary domain, vividdomains.com, listed for sale on Sedo.

It’s listed as a “domain without content” too, which looks even more peculiar.

According to DotAndCo, the company recently relocated from Florida to Grand Cayman.

WebHosting.info notes that, having chugged along for some time with only a few hundred domains under management, Vivid’s registration base has leapt from about 400 to over 1,900 in the last two weeks.

KnujOn’s registrar audit report (pdf), released at ICANN Brussels last week, notes that the anti-spam company was unable to locate a business registration for Vivid.

I’m not suggesting Vivid is dodgy, but these are the kind of clues I would use when deciding whether to give a registrar a wide berth.

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ICANN chair says new TLD guidebook could be final by December

Kevin Murphy, June 28, 2010, Domain Policy

Peter Dengate Thrush, chairman of the ICANN board, thinks there’s a chance that the Applicant Guidebook for new top-level domains could be ready by ICANN’s next meeting, set for Cartagena in early December.

The board resolved in Brussels on Friday to turn its September two-day retreat into a special meeting focussed on knocking the DAG into shape.

Shortly after the vote, Peter Dengate Thrush spoke at a press conference (emphasis mine).

Soon after the closing of the [DAG v4] public comment period was a regularly scheduled retreat for the board to go and do what boards do at retreats, and what we’ve decided today to do is to use that two-day retreat to see if we can’t make decisions on all the outstanding issues in relation to the new TLD program.

That’s probably reasonably ambitious, there may still be a couple left, but we want to get as many of them out of the way as we can. That means that when we come to the next ICANN meeting in Cartagena in December we hope to be very close if not actually able to hand out the Applicant Guidebook for that new process.

I asked him what outstanding issues needed to be resolved before the DAG can be finalized. Instead of a comprehensive list, he named two: IP protection and the Governmental Advisory Committee’s “morality and public order” concerns.

The IP issue is “close” to being resolved, he said, but “there may still be issues”.

On MOPO, he said there is “a potential conflict emerging” between GAC members who value free speech and those who are more concerned with their own religious and cultural sensitivities.

When I followed up to ask whether it was possible to reconcile these two positions, this is what he said:

What we’ve done is ask the GAC is how they would reconcile it… now they are saying that they can’t see how it can be done. We see that very much as a problem either for the GAC to change its advice, or to provide us with a mechanism whereby that can be reconciled.

The Brussels GAC Communique (pdf), has little to say on MOPO, delaying its advice until its official DAG v4 public comment filing.

MOPO has already created tensions between the GAC and the board. The conversation at their joint meeting on Tuesday went a little like this:

GAC: We don’t like this MOPO stuff. Please get rid of it.

BOARD: Okay. What shall we replace it with?

GAC: Erm…

BOARD: Well?

GAC: It’s not our problem. You think of something.

BOARD: Can you give us a hint?

GAC: No.

BOARD: Please? A little one?

GAC: We’ll think about it.

So can we expect the GAC to get its act together in time for Cartagena? That, too, seems ambitious.

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Bulgaria to file ICANN reconsideration appeal over rejected IDN ccTLD

Bulgaria is to appeal ICANN’s rejection of .бг, the Cyrillic version of its existing country code top-level domain, .bg.

Technology minister Alexander Tsvetkov said that the Bulgarian government will file a reconsideration request with ICANN, according to a DarikNews.bg interview.

The requested IDN ccTLD .бг was rejected because it looks quite a bit like Brazil’s existing ASCII ccTLD, .br, which could create confusion for Brazilians.

ICANN/IANA does not talk openly about ccTLD delegation issues. As far as I know, .бг is the only IDN ccTLD on the current fast-track program to be rejected on string-similarity grounds.

The Darik News interview, via Google Translate, reports Tsvetkov saying he “believes that this domain is the best way for Bulgaria” and that the government “will ask for reconsideration”.

Asked about the clash with Brazil, he said Bulgaria “will not quit” in its pursuit of its first-choice ccTLD.

Brazil has not been silent on the issue.

During the meeting on Tuesday between the ICANN board and its Governmental Advisory Committee, Brazil’s representative praised ICANN for rejecting .бг:

Brazil would like to express its support to the recent board’s decision about avoiding graphic similitude between new country codes and current country codes in Latin. This is particularly important inasmuch as any graphic confusion might facilitate phishing practices and all the problems related to it.

Many thanks to the Bulgarian reader who referred me to this Darik News interview.

For any other Bulgarians reading this, the interview also appears to contain lots of other really juicy information not related to domain names. Check it out.

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ICANN Brussels – .xxx approved but not approved

The controversy over the .xxx top-level domain has for the last few years, at least from one point of view, centered on opposing views of whether it was already “approved”.

ICM Registry has long claimed that ICANN “approved” it in 2005, and believes the Independent Review Panel agreed with that position. ICANN said the opposite.

Regardless of what happened in Brussels yesterday, when the board grudgingly voted to reopen talks on .xxx (to a surprisingly muted audience response), the question of whether .xxx is “approved” is definitely not over yet.

ICM tweeted shortly after the ICANN’s board’s decision:

@ICMRegistry: We are delighted to announce that the #ICANN Board has approved the .xxx top-level domain.

But a couple of hours later, ICANN chair Peter Dengate Thrush told us at a press conference that it categorically was not “approved”.

In terms of getting its point across to the media, ICM’s message trumped ICANN’s, judging by the headlines currently scrolling past me on Google News.

I guess this boils down to a question of definitions.

From the ICANN perspective, a TLD is presumably not “approved” until a contract has been signed and the board has resolved to add it to the root.

The board’s decision yesterday merely sets out the track towards that eventuality, with a few hurdles scattered along the way. In conversation with ICM people, I get the impression they believe the hurdles are low and easily surmountable.

Crucially for ICM, the issue of community support, the stick with which ICANN nearly killed .xxx back in 2007, is now off the table. There will be a quick review of ICM’s books and technical capabilities, but the views of the porn industry now seem pretty much irrelevant.

The only real way I can see .xxx being derailed again now is if the Governmental Advisory Committee issues future advice that unequivocally opposes the TLD.

As Kieren McCarthy noted in some detail over on CircleID, the GAC has never had a hell of a lot of substantial advice to impart about .xxx in its official communiques, so it’s difficult to see where a clash could arise based on its previous missives.

But with the GAC currently using bogus “morality and public order” arguments to jerk everybody around with regards the next new TLD round, it’s not entirely impossible that it could lob one final grenade in ICM’s direction.

This story ain’t over yet.

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