Three already-live TLDs are going to use the Trademark Clearinghouse to handle sunrise periods, possibly before the first new gTLDs launch.
BRS Media is set to use the TMCH, albeit indirectly, in its launch of third-level domains under .radio.am and .radio.fm, which it plans to launch soon as a budget alternative to .am and .fm.
The company has hired TM.Biz, the trademark validation firm affiliated with EnCirca, to handle its sunrise, and TM.biz says it will allow brand owners to leverage Clearinghouse records.
Trademark owners will be able to submit raw trademarks for validation as in previous sunrises, but TM.Biz will also allow them to submit Signed Mark Data (SMD) files, if they have them, instead.
Encrypted SMD files are created by the TMCH after validation, so the trademarks and the strings they represent are pre-validated.
There’ll presumably be some cost benefit of using SMD files, but pricing has not yet been disclosed.
Separately, Employ Media said today that it’s getting ready to enter the final stage of its .jobs liberalization, opening up the gTLD to essentially any string and essentially any registrant.
The company will also use the TMCH for its sunrise period, according to an ICANN press release, though the full details and timing have not yet been announced.
Unusually, .jobs is a gTLD that hasn’t already had a sunrise — its original business model only allowed vetted company-name registrations.
The TMCH is already accepting submissions from trademark owners, but it’s not yet integrated with registries and registrars.
ICANN has withdrawn its breach notice against .jobs registry Employ Media, opening the floodgates for third-party job listings services in the gTLD.
In a letter sent to the company earlier this week, ICANN seems to imply that it was wrong when it threatened in February 2011 to shut down .jobs for breaking the terms of its registry agreement:
ICANN has concluded that Employ Media is not currently in breach, but is instead in good standing under the Registry Agreement, with respect to the issues raised in the 27 February 2011 Notice of Breach letter.
ICANN will not seek to impose restrictions on new or existing policy initiatives within .JOBS as long as such conduct is consistent with the .JOBS Charter and the terms of the Registry Agreement.
The surprising move presumably means that Employ Media will be dropping its Independent Review Panel proceeding against ICANN, which was due to start in-person hearings next month.
The original breach notice alleged that the registry had gone too far when it sold thousands of generic domain names to the DirectEmployers Association to use for jobs listings sites.
The project was criticized harshly by the .JOBS Charter Compliance Coalition, an ad hoc group of jobs sites including Monster.com, which lobbied ICANN to enforce the .jobs contract.
The .jobs gTLD was originally supposed to be for companies to advertise only their own job openings.
The reasoning behind ICANN’s change of heart now is a little fuzzy.
Ostensibly, it’s because it received a letter December 3 from the Society for Human Resources Management, Employ Media’s policy-setting “sponsoring organization”.
The letter states that all of DirectEmployers’ domain names are perfectly okay registrations — “being used consistently with the terms of the .JOBS Charter” — and have been since the .Jobs Universe project started.
The domain names were all registered by DirectEmployers executive William Warren, who is a SHRM member as required by .jobs policy, the letter states.
Nothing seems to have changed here — it’s been Employ Media and SHRM’s position all along that the registrations were legit.
So did ICANN merely sense defeat in the IRP case and get cold feet?
Read the letters here.
Tucows has started offering .jobs and .aero domain names through its OpenSRS reseller channel.
According to a blog posting, resellers will have to opt in to offering these gTLDs. Prices are $125/year for .jobs and $50/year for .aero.
It’s potentially good news for both registries, particularly .jobs. Both are restricted, sponsored gTLDs, but .jobs has a much less strict set of entry requirements than .aero.
The OpenSRS network has about 11,000 resellers, according to the company, which is largely responsible for Tucows being the third-largest ICANN-accredited registrar by domain volume.
Employ Media’s fight to avoid losing its contract to run .jobs won’t be resolved this year, according to the latest batch of arbitration documents published by ICANN.
February 2013, two years after the the battle was joined, is now the absolute earliest the company could find out whether ICANN has the right to shut down .jobs due to an alleged contract breach.
As you may recall from deep in the mists of time (actually, February last year) ICANN threatened to terminate Employ Media’s contract due to the controversial .Jobs Universe project.
The registry gave thousands of .jobs domains, mostly geographic or vocational strings, to its partner, the DirectEmployers Association, which started competing against jobs listings sites.
A coalition of jobs sites including Monster.com complained about this on the basis that .jobs was originally designed for companies to list their own jobs, not to aggregate third-party listings.
The coalition believed that the .Jobs Universe project was essentially a fait accompli, despite Employ Media’s promise that all the names now allocated to DirectEmployers would be subject to an open RFP process.
ICANN eventually agreed with the coalition, issued a breach notice, and now it finds itself in arbitration under the auspices of the International Chamber of Commerce.
A face-to-face hearing has now been scheduled for January 28 to February 8, 2013. Between now and December, it’s paper filings – claims and counterclaims – all the way.
Arbitration clauses were added as standard to ICANN’s registry agreements in order to create a cheaper, faster option than fighting out disagreements in the courts.
However, with both sides lawyered up and a process now likely to last at least two years, it’s easy to wonder just how much more efficient it will be.
It won’t be an easy decision for the ICC panel.
While I still believe Employ Media was a bit sneaky about how it won ICANN approval for the .Jobs Universe project – and it certainly disenfranchised other jobs sites – there’s no denying that .jobs is now a much healthier gTLD for registrants as a result of DirectEmployers’ involvement.
An ICANN win might actually be a bad thing.
ICANN has asked the International Chamber of Commerce to rule that it has the right to terminate Employ Media’s .jobs contract.
It’s filed its response to Employ Media’s demand for arbitration over the disputed Universe.jobs service, which saw the registry vastly expand the .jobs space.
Employ Media “transcended the very intent behind creation of the TLD” with Universe.jobs, which allocated tens of thousands of .jobs domains to the DirectEmployers Association, ICANN said.
The organization wants the ICC to rule that it “may, but is not required to, terminate the Registry Agreement with Employ Media”, as it has already threatened.
The registry wants a declaration that it is not in breach.
But according to ICANN, Employ Media is still and has always been restricted to selling domains just to human resources professionals to promote jobs “within their own organizations”.
That’s despite ICANN’s approval of a contract amendment last year that allowed the registry to sell non-companyname .jobs domains.
This liberalization, ICANN says, did not allow the company to launch Universe.jobs, which monetizes at least 40,000 geographical and vocational .jobs through a massive third-party jobs board.
ICANN is now trying to frame the arbitration proceeding around a single question – was its breach notice “appropriate” or not?
The whole debacle is based around two interpretations of the .jobs Charter, which spells out who can register .jobs domains. This is what it says:
The following persons may request registration of a second-level domain within the .JOBS TLD:
- members of SHRM [the Society For Human Resources Management]; or
- persons engaged in human resource management practices that meet any of the following criteria: (i) possess salaried-level human resource management experience; (ii) are certified by the Human Resource Certification Institute; (iii) are supportive of the SHRM Code of Ethical and Professional Standards in Human Resource Management, as amended from time to time, a copy of which is attached hereto.
Employ Media’s interpretation is fairly literal and liberal – any signed-up SHRM member can register a .jobs domain and somebody at DirectEmployers is a member and therefore eligible.
Becoming a SHRM member is pretty straightforward and cheap. It’s not much of a barrier to entry.
ICANN argues that this interpretation is bogus:
Employ Media has espoused policies that allow a .JOBS domain name (or thousands of them) to be used for virtually any purpose as long as a human resource manager is propped up to “request” the domain. In doing so, Employ Media has failed to enforce meaningful restrictions on .JOBS registrations, as required by the Registry Agreement.
It further argues that Employ Media should have allocated premium .jobs domains through an “open, fair and transparent” process, rather than the “self-serving… backroom deal” with DirectEmployers.
Evidence now filed by ICANN shows that the two organizations have been arguing about this since at least November 2009, when Employ Media launched a Universe.jobs “beta”.
ICANN also now says that it has no problem with Universe.jobs, provided that Employ Media and SHRM amend their Charter policies to make the service retroactively compliant.
The more this dispute progresses and the more convoluted and expensive it becomes, the more it leaves me scratching my head.
You can download the latest arbitration documents from ICANN.