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Hong Kong telco drops dot-brand gTLD bid

Hong Kong Telecom has withdrawn its application for the new gTLD .香港電訊, the Chinese-script version of its brand.

The proposed single-registrant gTLD was uncontested, with no objections or Governmental Advisory Committee advice. It’s the 76th application to be withdrawn.

It was a defensive application. Under the heading “Goals”, HKT said: “An important goal of the TLD is the safeguard of the intellectual property right of the HKT and the 香港電訊 brand.”

The company hadn’t bothered to take advantage of the IDN bias in the prioritization draw and wasn’t due to have its Initial Evaluation finalized until the last two weeks of the process.

DI to participate in New York new gTLD conference

Kevin Murphy, January 9, 2013, Domain Services

The agenda for the two-day Digital Marketing & gTLD Strategy Congress in New York this March has been published, and I’m happy to say that DI is involved.

The Congress is being organized by Momentum Consulting Group and I expect it to have a bigger focus on dot-brand gTLDs than any other event of its kind to date.

The keynote speaker on day one is Georges-Edouard Dias, the chief digital officer for L’Oreal, which has applied for 13 gTLDs. Executives from Interbrand and Citi will also be speaking.

I’ve agreed to host a “fireside chat” after lunch on the first day, with Sally Costeron, ICANN’s senior adviser to the CEO on stakeholder engagement. Audience participation will be encouraged.

The subject of the discussion is: “How TLDs Empower Consumers, Offer Choice and Provide New Opportunities for Brands”. Here’s what the conference brochure (pdf) says:

At the core of the new TLD program was the desire for choice, competition and innovation. The new TLD program will help the Internet become more global (including Chinese, Arabic, etc letters). This keynote will outline ICANN’s commitment to a long term strategy with a plan for a system and structure to support the objectives.

Several sessions are also planned on domain registration and branding strategies for companies that have not applied for their own new gTLDs.

Conference tickets range from $1,295 to $1,695, depending on when you book. The next price increase is coming January 18.

Microsoft, Yahoo and others involved in new dot-brand gTLD group

HSBC, Microsoft, Yahoo and jewelry maker Richemont have told ICANN they plan to form a new GNSO stakeholder group just for single-registrant gTLD registries.

The group would comprise dot-brand registries and — potentially — other types of single-user gTLD manager.

A letter (pdf) to ICANN chair Steve Crocker, signed by executives from the four companies, reads in part:

As a completely new type of contracted party, we do not have a home to represent our unique community. In addition, the existence of conflicts with other contracted parties makes it challenging for us to reside within their stakeholder group.

Combined, the companies have applied for about 30 single-registrant gTLDs, mostly corresponding to brands.

Richemont, which is applying for dot-brands including .cartier, is also applying for the keywords .jewelry and .watches as single-user spaces.

The group plans to discuss formalizing itself at the next ICANN meeting, in Toronto this October.

During the just-concluded Prague meeting, the GNSO’s existing registries stakeholder group accepted several new gTLD applicants — I believe mainly conventional registries — into the fold as observers.

How the influx of new gTLD registries will affect the GNSO’s structure was a hot topic for the Governmental Advisory Committee during the meeting too. I guess now it has some of the answers it was looking for.

ICANN has 100 new gTLD applicants

Kevin Murphy, February 13, 2012, Domain Policy

One hundred companies have registered to apply for generic top-level domains, according to ICANN senior vice president Kurt Pritz.

ICANN has decided not to provide a running commentary about how many applications have been received, but it did say that 25 companies registered in the first week the program was open.

“That number is now up to 100,” Pritz said today at the The Top Level conference in London.

He was referring to companies paying their $5,000 to sign up for ICANN’s TLD Application System, which is likely to be much smaller than the actual number of gTLD applications. Each TAS account can store up to 50 applications, Pritz said.

There are only 45 days left on the clock to register for a TAS account. After March 29, you’re in for a wait of at least three years (my estimate) before the opportunity comes around again.

Pritz’s revelation was one of the more interesting things to emerge during today’s half-day gathering at the offices of the PR firm Burson-Marsteller, which attracted about 40 attendees.

The other big surprise was that Scandinavian Airlines System Group, the dot-brand applicant that was due to give a presentation on its plans for .sas, was a no-show.

I gather that somebody more senior at SAS found out about the conference and decided that revealing all was not such a great business strategy after all.

Most dot-brand applicants are playing their hands close to their chest, even if they’re not heading into a contested gTLD scenario (which SAS may well be if the software firm SAS Institute also applies for .sas).

I also found it notable that there’s still substantial confusion about the program among some potential dot-brand applicants, several of which did show up as general attendees.

I talked to one poor soul who had read the latest revision of the 349-page Applicant Guidebook back-to-back after it was published January 11, trying to figure out what had changed.

He was apparently unaware that ICANN had simultaneously published a summary of the changes, which were very minimal anyway, in a separate document.

These are the types of applicant – people unfamiliar not only with ICANN’s processes but also even with its web site – that are being asked to hack the Guidebook to make the rules compatible with a dot-brand business model, remember.

One potential applicant used a Q&A session during the conference to bemoan the fact that ICANN seems intent to continue to move the goal-posts, even as it solicits applications (and fees).

Pritz and Olof Nordling, manager of ICANN’s Brussels office, reiterated briefly during their presentation today that the current public comment period on “defensive” applications could lead to changes to the program’s trademark protection mechanisms.

But this comment period ends March 20, just nine days before the TAS registration deadline. That’s simply not enough time for ICANN to do anything concrete to deter defensive applications.

If any big changes are coming down the pipe, ICANN is going to need to extend the application window. Material changes made after the applications are already in are going to cause a world of hurt.

ARI signs up 21 new gTLD clients

Kevin Murphy, January 30, 2012, Domain Registries

ARI Registry Services says it signed up 21 new generic top-level domain clients in the first week after ICANN opened the program earlier this month.

The majority were dot-brand applicants, ARI said in a press release today. It has found that dot-brands represent about 60% of all the companies expressing interest in a new gTLD.

They all signed contracts between January 12, when ICANN starting taking applications, and January 19, the registry services provider said.

A spokesperson said that ARI expects to name some of its clients “in a matter of weeks”, but it’s not clear whether this will happen before March 29 – the deadline for making your first down-payment with ICANN – when it would be of most marketing use.

In the absence of this specific positive reinforcement of its message, the company today tried some FUD instead.

CEO Adrian Kinderis is quoted:

We have clients that are still undecided about whether they should apply. They have been put off by the negativity that has been surrounding the program. There have been delays and speculation. There is also a misguided perception amongst some that they can wait until the next round to secure their brand or generic category name. My message to those clients is that there is no certainty about when there will be another round. Potential applicants need to understand that if they take a ‘wait and see’ approach, they may miss out all together.

I’m not keen on this kind of fear-based marketing, but Kinderis has a point: the timing of the second-round is currently uncertain. Based on current evidence, I think an optimistic view is 2015.

I cover the subject in some depth on DomainIncite PRO (which you simply must subscribe to, otherwise your house will burn down with all of your cats inside… oh, look, I’m doing it now.)