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Should new gTLD objections have an appeals process?

Kevin Murphy, December 13, 2013, Domain Policy

That’s the question the ICANN Ombudsman is asking today.

Several new gTLD applicants that have lost objections — many in decisions that appear to diverge from ICANN’s rules or are inconsistent with other decisions — have been in touch to ask for redress, Ombudsman Chris LaHatte blogged this morning. He wrote:

The real problem as it seems to me, is that apart from the internal review procedures, there is no ability to seek an appeal from the panel decisions. A number of complainants had mentioned the need for an appeal process, emphasising that some of the decisions were in their view, inconsistent or not following the majority views.

LaHatte noted that his role is to decide issues of fairness in ICANN’s own decisions. As objections are all handled by third-party arbitration bodies, it’s not at all clear whether he has any authority at all over objection decisions.

Applicants have also been invoking the Reconsideration process en masse in an attempt to have successful objections overturned, but all Reconsideration requests to date have been rejected.

Reconsideration generally requires that the requester provide ICANN with new evidence that was not considered at the time of the original decision.

The ICANN Board Governance Committee, which handles Reconsideration, appears to be happy to leave objections in the hands of the arbitrators so far.

But the new gTLD objection process is a bit of a joke at the moment.

String Confusion Objection panelists have delivered inconsistent decisions, while Community Objection and Limited Public Interest Objection panels often seem to be making up rules as they go.

So should ICANN have an appeals process? If one is created it will undoubtedly be broadly used.

Islamic states to “officially object” to .islam

Kevin Murphy, December 13, 2013, Domain Policy

The Organization for Islamic Cooperation has decided to “file an official objection to the use of gTLDs .Islam and .Halal”, following a summit of 56 foreign ministers.

In a resolution (pdf) from the OIC’s high-level summit in Guinea this week, the organization also said it will become “an effective member” of ICANN, closely monitoring its work.

As previously reported, ICANN’s Governmental Advisory Committee was unable to reach a consensus to object to .islam and .halal, leaving it to ICANN’s board of directors to decide whether to approve them.

The OIC’s resolution is expected to become an important input to that decision-making process, after GAC chair Heather Dryden asked ICANN to take note of the Guinea meeting’s output.

The resolution also calls for the OIC to investigate how to run its own Islamic gTLDs.

The OIC has of course missed the boat by several months if it wants to file an objection to these gTLDs within the rules of the new gTLD program.

Instead, it’s going to have to hope that its entreaties to the ICANN board will be effective.

TMCH extends Trademark Claims indefinitely, kinda

Kevin Murphy, December 11, 2013, Domain Services

The Trademark Clearinghouse is to give the intellectual property lobby something that it’s been crying out for for years — an indefinite extension of parts of the Trademark Claims service.

And it’s going to be free.

Trademark Claims is a mandatory service for all new gTLD operators, sending pre-registration warnings to registrants and post-registration alerts to mark owners whenever a domain matching a trademark is registered.

But it only runs for 90 days, per the ICANN new gTLD contracts, which TMCH project director Jan Corstens said is IP owners’ “number one complaint” about the system.

So the TMCH is going to extend the post-registration alerts half of the service indefinitely.

When the first new gTLDs officially end their Claims periods next year, the TMCH will continue to send out alerts to mark owners (or, in 90% of cases, their registrar “agents”) when matching domains are registered.

Would-be registrants will only receive their pre-registration warnings for the original 90-day period.

Corstens said that the pre-registration side of Claims would only be possible with the cooperation of registries and registrars, and that there’s a lot of reluctance to help out.

“A lot of them are not really interested in doing that,” he said. “I understand it takes work, and I understand they think it could demotivate potential registrants.”

Trademark owners that have directly registered with the Clearinghouse, rather than going through an agent, will get the extended service for no added charge.

However, Corstens made it clear that the TMCH is not trying to compete with registrars — such as MarkMonitor and Melbourne IT — that already offer zone file monitoring services to trademark owners.

“We know the market exists,” he said. “It’s not our intention to become a monopoly. We will deliver it to them, of course, and assume they can integrate with it.”

Agents will be able to plug the service into their existing products if they wish, he said.

There are a few initial limitations with the new TMCH service such that its registrar agents may not find it particularly labor-saving.

First, only domains that exactly match labels in the Clearinghouse will generate alerts.

By contrast, brand-monitoring registrars typically generate alerts when the trademark is a substring of the domain. To carry on doing this they’ll need to carry on monitoring zone files anyway.

Second, the TMCH service only currently covers new gTLDs applied for in the 2012 round. It doesn’t cover .com, for example, or any other legacy gTLD.

Corstens said both of these limitations may be addressed in future releases. The first Trademark Claims period isn’t due to end until March, so there’s time to make changes, he said.

He added that he hopes the extension of Claims will lead to an uptick in the the number of trademarks being registered in the TMCH. Currently there are about 20,000.

GAC kills off two more new gTLD bids

Kevin Murphy, December 11, 2013, Domain Registries

A new gTLD applicant has withdrawn two of its Chinese-language applications after failing to secure the necessary government support.

Guangzhou YU Wei Information Technology Co withdrew its applications for .深圳 (.shenzhen) and .广州 (.guangzhou).

Both are the names of very large cities in southern China.

The ICANN Governmental Advisory Committee had previously issued official Advice against both bids.

The applicant had failed to get a passing score on its Initial Evaluation earlier this year, with ICANN ruling that governmental “support or non-objection was either not provided or did not meet the criteria”.

To get a geographic gTLD, you need to prove local government support, something which the applicant seems to have been unable to provide during Extended Evaluation.

Weirdly, Guangzhou YU Wei has previously passed EE for .佛山 (.foshan) and IE for .广东 (.guangdong), which are both also Chinese geographic names.

German geo .ruhr enters the root

Kevin Murphy, December 11, 2013, Domain Registries

Verisign today delegated the new gTLD .ruhr to the DNS root zone, making it the 35th new gTLD to go live.

It’s a geographic string, meant for residents of the north-west German region of Ruhr, operated by Regiodot.

nic.ruhr is already resolving.

Regiodot is already taking pre-registrations via approximately 10 signed-up registrars, which all appear to operate in German-speaking countries.

The Ruhr (in German, it’s short for Ruhrgebiet) has over eight million inhabitants, according to Wikipedia, making the potential market for .ruhr larger than many European ccTLDs.