NCC Group has followed through on its promise to divest parts of its domain business, selling the Open Registry collection of companies at a huge discount to the original purchase price.
KeyDrive and a mysterious entity called Terrain.com SA have together acquired the companies for €3.75 million ($3.97 million).
That’s compared to the minimum of £7.9 million ($12 million) NCC originally paid just two years ago.
NCC said in a statement that the sold companies are:
- Open Registry SA, a registry back-end provider with a handful of new gTLD clients.
- ClearingHouse for Intellectual Property SA, aka CHIP, which provides software and billing support for the Trademark Clearinghouse.
- Nexperteam CVBA, a tiny registrar.
- Sensirius CVBA, the original Open Registry company, a new gTLD consultancy.
Missing from that list is Artemis, the new gTLD registry for .trust, which NCC separately acquired from Deutsche Post for an undisclosed sum in February 2014.
NCC is also keeping hold of its data escrow business, which is widely used by gTLD registries to comply with ICANN rules.
It’s not clear how the sold companies are being divided up between the two buyers.
KeyDrive is the Luxembourg-based holding company for the registrars Key-Systems and Moniker and other domain firms.
Terrain.com appears to belong to EuroDNS chair Xavier Buck, who was chair of Open Registry until NCC bought it, but the domain itself doesn’t seem to resolve right now.
NCC said that €2 million will be paid up front and €1.75 million will be deferred for 18 months.
The new .shop gTLD is likely to see growth over the coming week or so, as registrars begin to offer them for free.
Two retail registrars in the Key-Systems stable — Moniker and domaindiscount24 — said today they will offer a free .shop to each of their customers until December 23.
The offer is limited to one domain per account, so we’re unlikely to see the same level of growth, speculation and abuse we’ve seen in other TLDs that have offered free registrations.
Other popular registrars are currently selling first-year .shop names for $8 to $10, a discount on the usual retail price of between $25 and $30.
Interestingly and perhaps surprisingly, Key-Systems’ native Germany already has the most .shop registrations to date, with over a quarter of the 100,000 or so names registered so far to registrants in that country.
You have to go to number four in its geographic breakdown league to even get to the first Anglophone nation (the US).
Freenom, the company behind .tk and other freebie ccTLDs, has had its ICANN registrar accreditation suspended for cybersquatting competing registrars including Go Daddy and Key-Systems.
OpenTLD, its registrar business, has been told it cannot accept new registrations or inbound transfers from July 8 to October 6 or until it provides ICANN with a full list of the names it squatted.
I believe it’s the first time ICANN has suspended a registrar for this reason.
The suspension notice states:
ICANN has found that OpenTLD has engaged in a pattern and practice of trafficking in or use of domain names identical or confusingly similar to a trademark or service mark of a third party in which the Registered Name Holder has no rights or legitimate interest
That’s a long-winded way of saying “massive cybersquatting”.
ICANN is basing its claims on two UDRP cases that Freenom and its CEO, Joost Zuurbier, lost.
According to WIPO panelists in Key-Systems GmbH v. Joost Zuurbier, OpenTLD B.V. and NetEarth Group, Inc. v. Stichting OpenTLD WHOIS Proxy, the company squatted at least seven of its rivals’ trademarks.
The domains were netearthone.biz, rrpproxy.me, key-systems.cc, resellerclub.tk, resellbiz.biz, godaddy.cf and resello.ws.
According to the UDRP decisions, Freenom used the domains to try to entice resellers of the other registrars over to OpenTLD.
It bought the competing registrars’ trademarks as search keywords on Google’s advertising platform, a WIPO panelist found. If you searched Google for Key-Systems trademark “RRPproxy”, for example, you’d get an ad linking to rrpproxy.me.
In some cases the names were registered behind Freenom’s in-house privacy service. In others, Zuurbier and OpenTLD were listed plainly as the registrants.
The WIPO panelists also found that Freenon shirked its duties under the UDRP as registrar, deleting the squatted domains rather than locking them, which essentially amounted to “cyberflight”.
It all looks pretty bad for Freenom, which only gained its accreditation two years ago.
To avoid termination, it has to provide ICANN with a list of all of its trademark infringing names, agree to transfer them to the mark owners or delete them, and bunch of other stuff.
ICANN has approved Moniker’s request for a partial waiver of the Registrar Accreditation Agreement based on European privacy law, despite the fact that the registrar is based in the US.
The data retention waiver for Moniker was one of a few granted to members of the KeyDrive group of registrars that were approved by ICANN yesterday.
KeyDrive is based in Luxembourg, but the waiver request was granted because complying with the 2013 RAA could violate German privacy law and Moniker’s data is stored in Germany.
Registrar’s technical backend services provider as well as data storage and collection occur on servers hosted and operated in Germany, and is subject to German law. Accordingly, ICANN has determined that it is appropriate to grant Registrar a data retention waiver
Group members Key-Systems AG (a German company) Key-Systems LLC (an American company) also received waivers yesterday.
InternetX, part of Germany-based United Internet, and http.net Internet also had their requests approved.
The waiver process was introduced because the 2013 RAA requires registrars to store customer data long after their domains expire, which registrars’ lawyers say forces them to break local laws.
An EU directive implemented in many European countries says that companies cannot store personal data for longer than it is needed for the purpose for which is was collected.
KeyDrive has appointed Bonnie Wittenburg, Key-System USA executive vice president, as the new CEO of sister registrar Moniker.
She replaces Craig Snyder, who was CEO of Moniker and SnapNames and remains CEO of SnapNames. Wittenburg keeps her EVP roles at Key-Systems.
“Through her expanded role she will drive cooperation and develop a synergistic relationship between the KeyDrive members,” the company said in a statement.
The KeyDrive stable also includes Key-Systems, NameDrive and KS Registry.
Wittenberg is a 15-year veteran of the domain name industry, with previous stints at Network Solutions and Iron Mountain.