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Jobs boards slam plan to open up .jobs

Providers of online jobs boards have started to complain to ICANN about plans by registry manager Employ Media to liberalize the .jobs sponsored top-level domain.

It’s rare that an ICANN public comment period attracts a decent amount of comment from outside the usual suspects, but this controversial proposal seems to be heading that way.

Employ Media wants to amend its registry contract to remove the restriction that limits .jobs registrations to the corporate name of employers, a key component of its original commitments.

This has naturally enough stirred debate in the HR community, which now appears to have divided itself into two camps – employers for the changes and jobs boards strongly against.

Several HR professionals with large companies including IBM, BT and Intercontinental Hotels have already filed brief messages with ICANN in support of the .jobs proposal.

Now, the counterargument is being made by a few operators of employer-independent jobs boards, including CollegeRecruiter.com and SalesGravy.com.

The Employ Media proposal would allow it to fulfil its deal with the DirectEmployers Association, which plans to lease thousands of geographic and industry domains.

The DEA plan would essentially be a single jobs site with thousands of domains acting as entry points to vertical listings. Want a job in Chicago? Type in chicago.jobs.

Importantly – and this may explain why HR folk like it – the site would be ad-supported and free for employers to list their openings.

Naturally, existing listings sites see this as an unacceptable competitive threat.

Steve Rothberg, CEO of CollegeRecruiter.com, said in his comment that Employ Media “went out of its way” to avoid getting feedback from existing jobs sites.

The results of an Employ Media survey submitted as part of its application to ICANN make that point pretty clearly.

Todd Goldstein, founder of AccountingJobsToday.com, observed in his comment that the proposal would dilute Employ Media’s original commitment to be “a place for employers” and accused the registry of trying to “route around” its promises to ICANN.

Which top brands turned down their .co domains?

Playboy, Pepsi and Pizza Hut are among 17 of the world’s top 100 brands that did not use the .co sunrise period to register their trademarks as .co domain names.

This is effectively the first empirical data we have to judge the demand for a Globally Protected Marks List along the lines of that which ICANN was toying with for its new TLD program.

.CO Internet, the registry operator behind the newly liberalized Colombian top-level domain, chose to implement a Specially Protected Marks List as one of several IP-protection mechanisms.

The list, maintained by Deloitte, comprises the 100 trademarks thought to be the most valuable, and the most rigorously defended, on the internet.

All of these marks, which include some generic dictionary words, are classified as registry reserved and will be impossible to register unless you are the trademark owner.

Yet 83 of the companies on the list chose to register their names in the .co sunrise anyway.

This may show that famous brands are more interested in owning a name that resolves, rather than merely defensively registering in order to keep their marks out of the hands of cybersquatters.

I can only speculate as to why these 83 chose to participate in the sunrise.

Two obvious reasons are the need to establish a Colombian presence on the internet, and the desire to capture any typo traffic from people miskeying “.com”.

For both these reasons, the data is probably not a reliable indicator of how these companies would act during a generic TLD sunrise.

Of the 100 marks on the Deloitte list, these are the 17 that have so far chosen not to acquire their domains:

Accenture, Accor, Armani, Blackberry, BMW, Carrefour, Dell, Fedex, Ferrari, General Electric, Nivea, Pedigree, Pepsi, Pizza Hut, Playboy, Prada, Reebok, Sanyo, SAP, Sheraton, Tiffany and Total.

Because these are registry-reserved names, there’s no danger of cybersquatters picking them up when .co goes to general availability in a little under 11 days.

UPDATE 2010-07-13: See the comment from .CO Internet below. It seems the SPM list is not as useful for brand holders as I had thought.

Investors circle ICM as .xxx enters home straight

ICM Registry’s board of directors has approved a $5 million funding round, following the recent decision by ICANN to put the .xxx top-level domain onto the path to approval.

ICM president Stuart Lawley tells me he’s underwritten the whole round himself, already injecting another $500,000 of his own money into the company.

Venture capital investors have already approached the company, following the Brussels decision two weeks ago, according to Lawley.

In Brussels, ICANN’s board resolved to re-enter contract negotiations with ICM, following years of wrangling with ICANN’s appeals and independent review processes.

While .xxx’s approval and entry to the DNS root is not a slam-dunk, the only major hurdle appears to be ICANN’s Governmental Advisory Committee, and many believe the GAC is unlikely to stick its neck out on such a controversial issue.

While demand for .xxx domains is yet to be proven, there are already 162,000 pre-registrations, which would work out to a $10 million business, not including premium sunrise and landrush fees.

A report in Business Week last week said ICM could bring in $200 million per year in revenue on registrations alone.

I think that’s a pretty ambitious prediction, to be honest, and I can’t help but wonder in Business Week got ICM’s ten-year and one-year projections mixed up.

Even at $60 a pop, that’s still 3.3 million registered domains. The stars will have to align in unexpected ways for .xxx to reach that kind of penetration (pun intended).

ICM has previously projected near-term registrations in the low-mid hundreds of thousands.

ICM is currently owned by a close-knit group of investors, mainly Lawley’s circle and ICM’s management, with Lawley himself owning roughly 70% of the business.

Lego launches attack on new TLDs

Could little yellow plastic men be the death of the new top-level domain process?

Toymaker Lego has filed a scathing criticism of ICANN’s latest Draft Applicant Guidebook for prospective new TLD registries, saying it ignores trademark holders.

Lego, one of the most prolific enforcers of trademarks via the UDRP, said that the latest DAG “has not yet resolved the overarching trademark issue”.

DAG v4 contains new protections designed to make it easier for trademark holders to defend their rights in new TLD namespaces. But Lego reckons these protections are useless.

The Trademark Clearinghouse is NOT a rights protection mechanism but just a database. Such a database does not solve the overarching trademark issues that were intended to be addressed.

Lego also says that the Uniform Rapid Suspension service outlined in DAG v4 is much weaker than it wanted.

“It doesn’t seem to be more rapid or cheaper than the ordinary UDRP,” Lego’s deputy general counsel Peter Kjaer wrote.

Lego thinks that a Globally Protected Marks List, which was at one time under consideration for inclusion in the DAG, would be the best mechanism to protect trademarks.

ICANN still seems to ignore that cybersquatting and all kinds of fraud on the internet is increasing in number and DAG 4 contains nothing that shows trademark owners that ICANN has taken our concerns seriously.

The comment, which is repeated verbatim in a letter from Arla Foods also filed today, is the strongest language yet from the IP lobby in the DAG v4 comment period.

Rumblings at the ICANN meeting Brussels two weeks ago, and earlier, suggest that some companies may consider filing lawsuits to delay the new TLD process, if they don’t get what they want in the final Applicant Guidebook.

ICANN’s top brass, meanwhile, are hopeful of resolving the trademark issues soon, and getting the guidebook close to completion, if not complete, by the Cartagena meeting in December.

Registrar linked to .xxx loses ICANN accreditation

A Technology Company Inc, a registrar previously linked to the .xxx top-level domain application, has lost its ICANN accreditation for non-payment of fees.

The company, which is also known as NameSystem.com or ATECH, was founded by Jason Hendeles, who is also the founder of ICM Registry, the company behind .xxx.

ICANN has informed ATECH (pdf) that its accreditation will expire and not be renewed on July 12 because it has failed to pay $5,639 in ICANN fees.

ATECH was one of the second wave of competitive registrars to go live, applying for its ICANN accreditation all the way back in 1999. It currently has just a few thousand domains under management.

Hendeles, currently ICM’s vice president of strategic business development, was behind ICM’s original .xxx bid, filed in ICANN’s 2000 round of new TLD applications.

ICM was subsequently taken over by British businessman Stuart Lawley, its current chief executive.

I’m told ATECH was sold to Alok Prakash of Oregon a few years ago.

UPDATE 2010-07-14: ATECH has evidently coughed up, and has regained its accreditation.