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.cruise heading to auction despite “closed generic” protest

Ownership of the contested gTLD .cruise will be resolved by auction, despite protests from one applicant that the other left it too late to drop its “closed generic” plans.

Applications from Cruise Lines International Association and Viking River Cruises were both placed in “In Auction” status by ICANN overnight.

Both original applications had been to operate .cruise for the registry’s own exclusive use, a so-called closed generic bid.

However, following objections from its Governmental Advisory Committee in April 2013, ICANN eventually decided to disallow such applications.

CLIA changed its plans in September 2013 as a result of the GAC advice.

But it wasn’t until mid-June this year, around about the same time as ICANN was mulling its final determination on the matter, that Viking changed its application to remove the exclusive access bits.

This prompted an angry response from CLIA.

In a letter to ICANN last month (pdf) the group accused Viking of waiting too long to change its application and said it should be given a chance to formally object.

CLIA further accused Viking of deliberately delaying the .cruise contention set so its own dot-brand, .viking, could get a head-start. The .viking gTLD is contracted and currently in pre-delegation testing.

ICANN dismissed CLIA’s request, however, saying that applicants can amend their applications at any time and that there are no plans to reopen the objection filing period for one special case.

The gTLD now seems set to head to an ICANN auction or private settlement between the two parties.

ICANN bans closed generic gTLDs, for now

Kevin Murphy, June 24, 2015, Domain Policy

ICANN has slapped a de facto ban on so-called “closed generic” gTLDs, at least for the remaining 2012 round applicants.

The ICANN board’s New gTLD Program Committee passed a resolution Sunday that un-freezes the remaining new gTLD applications that envisage a namespace wholly controlled by the applicant.

The affected strings are .hotels, .dvr and .grocery, which are uncontested, as well as .food, .data and .phone, which are contested by one or two other applicants.

The NGPC said five strings are affected, but the ICANN web site currently shows these six.

The resolution allows the contested strings to head to dispute resolution or auction, but makes it clear that “exclusive generic gTLDs” will not be able to sign a registry contract.

Instead, they will either have to withdraw their applications (receiving a partial refund), drop their exclusivity plans, or have their applications carried over to the second new gTLD round.

The GNSO has been asked to develop a policy on closed generics for the second round, which is still probably years away.

It’s not clear whether other applicants would be able to apply for strings that are carried over, potentially making the close generic applicant fight two contention sets.

The NGPC decision comes over two years after the Governmental Advisory Committee advised that closed generics must serve “a public interest goal” or be rejected.

This weekend’s resolution sidesteps the “public interest” question altogether.

ICANN ponders rejecting all closed generics

ICANN is thinking about rejecting all the remaining “closed generic” new gTLD applications from the current round.

According to minutes of a June 5 New gTLD Program Committee meeting published last night, ICANN is considering two options.

First, it could “prohibit exclusive generic TLDs in this round of the New gTLD Program and consult with the GNSO about developing consensus policy for future rounds”.

Or, it could initiate a “community process… to develop criteria to be used to evaluate whether an exclusive generic applicant’s proposed exclusive registry access serves a public interest goal.”

The NGPC has not yet reached a decision.

The rejection option would be fastest and easiest, but risks the wrath of companies that applied for closed generics — which were always envisaged when the new gTLD rules were being developed — in good faith.

Alternatively, developing a process to measure the applications against the “public interest” would be very time-consuming, possibly not even feasible, and would add even more delay to competing applicants.

This is one of the longest-delayed responses to the Governmental Advisory Committee’s April 2013 Beijing communique, which said “exclusive registry access should serve a public interest goal.”.

Closed generics, which ICANN now calls “exclusive access” gTLDs, are dictionary words that the applicant proposes to keep for itself, allowing no third parties to register names.

There are currently only six new gTLD applications that are stubbornly sticking to their original closed generic position.

Applicants for another 175 gTLDs have either changed their applications to allow third-party registrants or denied that they ever even planned to give themselves exclusive access.

Of the six hold-outs, three are delaying their respective contention sets while ICANN endlessly mulls the problem.

Here’s a table showing the affected strings.

Lifestyle Domain Holdings, Inc. .foodContested by Donuts and Ecyber Solutions.
Booking.com B.V..hotelsUncontested.
Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. .groceryWas contested by Safeway, now uncontested.
Hughes Satellite Systems Corporation.dvrUncontested.
Dish DBS Corporation.dataContested by M+M and Donuts.
Dish DBS Corporation.phoneContested by Donuts.

The applicants for the closed generics have each submitted responses explaining why they believe their proposals serve the public interest. They’re largely corporate legalese bibble.

Amazon snubs ICANN auction to win .coupon privately

Amazon has won the new gTLD .coupon, after Minds + Machines withdrew its application this week.

I understand that the two-way contention set was settled privately via a third party intermediary, possibly via some kind of auction, with M+M ultimately being paid off to withdraw its bid.

.coupon was the only ICANN-managed “auction of last resort” scheduled for July, following the $600,000 sale of .信息 last week.

The next batch of ICANN auctions is now not due to happen until August, unless of course ICANN rejigs its schedule in light of the .coupon settlement.

It’s not clear why Amazon has suddenly decided it prefers the idea of a private commercial settlement after all, but it appears to be good news for M+M, which will see the majority of the cash.

However, it could be related to the fact that .coupon, and dozens of other Amazon new gTLD applications, recently made the switch from being “closed generics” to more inclusive proposals.

Amazon had originally intended that itself and its subsidiaries would be the “only eligible registrants” for .coupon, but in March it changed the application, among many others.

Now, Amazon talks in vague terms about .coupon names being available to “eligible trusted third parties”, a term that doesn’t seem ready to define before the TLDs are actually delegated.

It seems to me, from Amazon’s revised applications, that .coupon and its other gTLDs will be locked down tight enough that they could wind up being effectively closed generics after all.

When Amazon publishes its first eligibility requirements document with ICANN, I expect members of the Governmental Advisory Committee will be watching closely.

Ten more new gTLDs get ICANN contracts

Kevin Murphy, December 13, 2013, Domain Registries

.bar, .pub, .fish, .actor, .caravan, .saarland, .yokohama, .ren, .eus and .рус all have new gTLD contracts with ICANN as of yesterday.

It’s an eclectic batch of TLDs. Unusually, only one belongs to Donuts.

Of note is .caravan, which on the face of it looks like an English-language generic, but which is actually a closed, single-registrant dot-brand.

While “caravan” is an English dictionary word in the UK and Australasia, in the US it’s a 50-year-old trademark belonging to Illinois-based applicant Caravan International.

The Governmental Advisory Committee never flagged up .caravan as a “closed generic” in its Beijing Communique, so ICANN never questioned how it would be used.

However, the application states that the company plans “to reserve all names within the TLD to itself”.

What we seem to have here is a case of a dictionary word in one part of the world being captured by a single-registrant applicant due to a trademark elsewhere.

Another notable new Registry Agreement signatory is Punto 2012, which has obtained a contract for .bar.

The gTLD was originally contested, but Demand Media’s United TLD withdrew following an RFP held by the government of Montenegro, which had an effective veto over the string “Bar” due to a match with the protected name of one of its administrative regions.

I gather Montenegro will be paid in some way from the .bar registry pot.

There are also a few new geographic/cultural registries this week: .eus for the Basque people of Spain, .yokohama for a Japanese city, .saarland for a German state and the Cyrillic IDN .рус for a subset of the Russian people.

The only .brand is .ren, for the Chinese social network Renren.

The remainder are English-language generics.