Today, the number of comments filed with ICANN on new gTLD applications surpassed the number of applications themselves, and we’re now starting to see more significant objections.
At the time of writing, 1,939 comments have been filed on 584 applications by 834 unique individuals and organizations.
Here are some recent comments from notable organizations.
Save the Children
The international charitable non-governmental organization Save the Children has expressed concerns about all four .health applications.
Here’s a snippet:
The health Internet is a vital means of health information access worldwide. Thus, “.health” and health related top level domains should be trusted and reliable resources which take the public interest into account and are based on broad-based, multi-stakeholder consensus. In this regard, it is particularly worrying that the current applicants intend to sell the “.health” gTLD on a ‘first-come, first-served’, wholesale and auction basis, placing private interests ahead of the public interest.
We urge ICANN to postpone the assignment of “.health” until such time as following broad-based consultation of the health community, including the public and private sectors, adequate baseline conditions for their operation are elaborated and their implementation and observance is ensured.
The same comment was filed by International Medical Informatics Association, indicating an orchestrated campaign is underway.
All were filed as Community Objection Grounds, suggesting that .health could run into objection delays down the road.
But Save the Children, which has better things to do with its money, may not necessarily object itself. I’d say .health is a prime candidate for a community-based intervention by the Independent Objector.
I’m also expecting the Governmental Advisory Committee to take a healthy interest in these applications.
International Olympic Committee
The International Olympic Committee has, as expected, thrown its support behind the .sport application filed by SportAccord, which already has strong ties with the Olympic movement.
There are only two applications for .sport (though Donuts is going for .sports) and while SportAccord’s is a community-based bid, a successful Community Priority Evaluation is by no means assured.
However, if the IOC is half as belligerent about .sport as it has been about the new gTLD program in general then I expect Famous Four Media, the other .sport applicant, has a fight on its hands.
Notably, the IOC invokes ICANN’s new IANA contract to back up its claim that SportAccord should be the rightful owner of .sport:
new IANA contractual requirements require ICANN in connection with new gTLDs to document “how the process provided the opportunity for input from relevant stakeholders and was supportive of the global public interest. “ Therefore, SportAccord is the only applicant for the .SPORT gTLD which can serve the global public interest in connection with the operation of the gTLD on behalf of the global sports community.
Lego Juris, the extremely brand-conscious producer of overpriced kids’ building blocks, has filed complaints about 80 applications, all of which appear to be the same form letter.
As you might imagine from the most prolific filer of UDRP complaints in history, Lego’s primary concern is cybersquatting and preventing the need for defensive registrations.
Here’s Lego’s comment:
While we of course support enhanced fair competition, we call on the evaluators to ensure the maintenance of a clean Internet space by impressing on the new registries the importance of not accepting second level names within their gTLDs that may be confusingly similar to our trade marks, especially from applicants believed to be registering in bad faith.
To avoid consumer confusion and the wasted resources of needless dispute resolution procedures, legal actions and defensive registrations (none of which benefit consumers), as well as proving to the entire community that the registries do wish to act in good faith in a clean space, we request that new registries develop “blocked” lists of brand names that should not be registered absent evidence of good faith. Such lists could take the form of “white lists” at the second level that could only be lifted if requested by and for the brand owner.
This comment was filed against .kids, .group, .inc, .gmbh, .discount, .deals, .direct and many, many more.
All of these comments, incidentally, are logged in the DI PRO new gTLD application database.
International Olympic Committee lawyers have lodged an official appeal of ICANN’s latest decision to not grant it extra-extra special new gTLD protection.
The IOC last week filed a Reconsideration Request asking the ICANN board to rethink an April 10 decision that essentially ignored the latest batch of “.olympic” special pleading.
As previously reported, ICANN’s GNSO Council recently spent a harrowing couple of meetings trying to grant the Olympic and Red Cross trademarks even more protection than they already get.
Among other things, the recommendations would have protected strings confusingly similar to “.olympic” at the top level in the new gTLD program.
But a month ago the ICANN board of directors’ newly created, non-conflicted new gTLD program committee declined to approve the GNSO Council’s recommendations.
The committee pointed out in its rationale that the application window is pretty much closed, making changes to the Applicant Guidebook potentially problematic:
a change of this nature to the Applicant Guidebook nearly three months into the application window – and after the date allowed for registration in the system – could change the basis of the application decisions made by entities interested in the New gTLD Program
It also observed that there was still at that time an open public comment period into the proposed changes, which tended to persuade them to maintain the status quo.
The decision was merely the latest stage of an ongoing farce that I went into much more detail about here.
But apparently not the final stage.
With its Reconsideration Request (pdf), the IOC points out that changes to the Applicant Guidebook have always been predicted, even at this late stage. The Guidebook even has a disclaimer to that effect.
The standard for a Reconsideration Request, which is handled by a board committee, is that the adverse decision was made without full possession of the facts. I can’t see anything in this request that meets this standard.
The IOC reckons the lack of special protections “diverts resources away from the fulfillment of this unique, international humanitarian mission”, stating in its request:
The ICANN Board Committee’s failure to adopt the recommended protection at this time would subject the International Olympic Committee and its National Olympic Committees to costly and burdensome legal proceedings that, as a matter of law, they should not have to rely upon.
Forgive me if I call bullshit.
The Applicant Guidebook already protects the string “.olympic” in over a dozen languages – making it ineligible for delegation – which is more protection than any other organization gets.
But let’s assume for a second that a cybersquatter applies for .olympics (plural) which isn’t specially protected. I’m willing to bet that this isn’t going to happen, but let’s pretend it will.
Let’s also assume that the Governmental Advisory Committee didn’t object to the .olympics application, on the IOC’s behalf, for free. The GAC definitely would object, but let’s pretend it didn’t.
A “costly and burdensome” Legal Rights Objection – which the IOC would easily win – would cost the organization just $2,000, plus the cost of paying a lawyer to write a 20-page complaint.
It has already spent more than this lobbying for special protections that it does not need.
The law firm that has been representing the IOC at ICANN, Silverberg, Goldman & Bikoff, sent at least two lawyers to ICANN’s week-long meeting in Costa Rica this March.
Which client(s) paid for this trip? How much did it cost? Did the IOC bear any of the burden?
How much is the IOC paying Bikoff to pursue this Reconsideration Request? How much has it spent lobbying ICANN and national governments these last few years?
What’s the hourly rate for sitting on the GNSO team that spent weeks coming up with the extra special protections that the board rejected?
How much “humanitarian” cash has the IOC already pissed away lining the pockets of lawyers in its relentless pursuit of, at best, a Pyrrhic victory?
While the ICANN public meeting in Dakar last October was notable for a heated clash between governments and the domain name industry, the Costa Rica meeting next week may be characterized by these two recent enemies uniting against a common enemy.
Members of the Generic Names Supporting Organization, the Governmental Advisory Committee and the At-Large Advisory Committee all appear to be equally livid about a last-minute new gTLD program surprise sprung by ICANN late last week.
The hitch relates to the ongoing saga about special brand protection for the International Olympic Committee, Red Cross and Red Crescent movements in the new gTLD program.
The need to develop rights protection mechanisms for essentially just three organizations has always been a slightly ridiculous and unnecessary premise, but recently it has assumed symbolic proportions, cutting to the heart of the multistakeholder model itself.
Now, following a perplexing eleventh-hour ICANN mandate, Costa Rica is likely to see some fierce debate about the ICANN decision to kick off the new gTLD program last June.
We expect the GNSO and the GAC to show a relatively united front against ICANN staff on the IOC/RC issue. The At-Large Advisory Committee is also set to throw a bomb or two.
There’s even an outside chance that upcoming talks could wind up adding delay to the next phase of the new gTLD program itself…
The full text of this pre-ICANN 43 policy analysis is available to DomainIncite PRO subscribers here.
SportAccord, a worldwide coalition of sports federations with Olympic support, is looking for partners to help it with a possible .sport top-level domain bid.
In a request for proposals published today, the organization said it is looking not only for expertise and potential technical partners, but also financial backing:
The objective of SportAccord is to develop the best possible promotion of Sports Themed gTLDs by leveraging its unique relationship with its members, and to establish a usage policy that ensure respect of Sports key values.
SportAccord is therefore seeking to developing partnership with entities that could bring technical expertise and financial support to the common development of Sport themed gTLDs.
The 17-question RFP reveals that the organization has evidently done its homework.
Questions cover pertinent topics such as registrar integration, trademark protection, premium name monetization, and how to beat the ICANN threshold score for community-based applications.
The deadline for replying is September 30.
SportAccord, based in Lausanne, Switzerland, is an umbrella group comprising the international federations for over 100 sports, covering everything from football to tug of war.
The RFP states that the International Olympic Committee supports its gTLD initiative.
That’s an endorsement that may prove the deal-breaker for any .sport application. The IOC has been a vigorous defender of its rights in the new gTLD program.
Its lobbying efforts most recently compelled ICANN to build special protection for Olympic trademarks into the Applicant Guidebook itself (as well as lumbering the GNSO and ICANN staff with a bunch of unnecessary policy-development work).
Two other organizations have previously announced .sport applications
But SportAccord says in its RFP that “neither SportAccord nor any of its Members have made any commitment to support or participate in any sport themed gTLD.”
It looks like we may be looking at yet another push of the reset button on a well-lobbied gTLD.
The SportAccord RFP can be downloaded here.
The International Olympic Committee, fresh from its big win at ICANN Singapore, is pushing for more special protections in the new top-level domains program.
ICANN only approved the new gTLD program last month with the proviso that Olympic and Red Cross strings – .redcross and .olympic for example – would be banned as gTLDs in the first round.
The decision was a pretty obvious piece of political bone-throwing to the Governmental Advisory Committee, which had backed the IOC’s cause.
Now the IOC wants to ensure ICANN will ban .olympic and .olympiad in eight additional languages, including four non-Latin scripts, as well as “confusingly similar” strings such as .olympics.
I expect ICANN will probably grant this concession, even though the idea that somebody other than the IOC could successfully apply for .olympics under existing rules has always been ludicrous.
The IOC has probably already spent just as much money lobbying for these changes as it would have cost to file a slam-dunk legal rights objection, as already allowed by the Guidebook.
And that would only have been necessary, of course, in the vanishingly improbable scenario where somebody was stupid enough to pay $185,000 to apply for .olympics in the first place.
But the IOC now also wants all of its brands banned at the second level in all new gTLDs. This seems like a bigger ask, given that ICANN resolved to protect the Olympic marks “for the top level only”.
In a July 1 letter to ICANN (pdf), published today, an IOC lawyer includes suggested text for the Applicant Guidebook, to be included in the default registry agreement, stating:
In recognition of legislative and treaty protection for the Olympic designations, the labels “OLYMPIC” and “OLYMPIAD” shall be initially reserved at the second level. The reservation of an Olympic designation label string shall be released to the extent Registry Operator reaches agreement with the International Olympic Committee.
This would give the Olympic brand as much protection as country names at the second level.
The problem with this, of course, is that it sets the precedent for a specially protected marks list, which ICANN has resisted and which the GAC specifically has not asked for.
It’s a problem ICANN has arguably brought on itself, of course, given that it already specially protects “icann”, “iana” and a number of other strings on spurious technical stability grounds.