Delaware secretary of state opposes any corporate-themed new gTLDs

Kevin Murphy, September 21, 2012, Domain Policy

The secretary of state for Delaware has come out in opposition to new gTLD applications such as .inc, .corp and .ltd.

Jeff Bullock filed the comments with ICANN today, despite having previously suggested that some applications might have sufficient restrictions to make them acceptable.

Bullock wrote (emphasis added):

none of the applications contains a fully thought out, achievable, transparent and enforceable system for fully safeguarding that a firm remains legally registered with a company registry at all times.

none of the applications adequately safeguards consumers, legitimate businesses, the public at large, state regulators, and the internet itself from the risks that “company endings” are used for fraudulent or misleading purposes.

Therefore, at this stage of the gTLD process, I strongly believe that the public is best served if these company endings are not made available for use. There is no overriding public policy purpose or strong business case for making them available and the opportunity for fraud and abuse is very high.

There are a few dozen corporate-themed gTLD applications, including contests for: .inc, .corp, .llp, .ltd, .company and .gmbh.

Back in March, before any of the applications had been published, Bullock and other secretaries of state said that such gTLDs should only be approved with “restrictions that would attempt to protect legitimate businesses and consumers from confusion or fraud.”

His letter suggested that DOT Registry’s proposals might be adequate, but he’s apparently changed his mind after reading the applications.

Based on the March letters, I’d say there’s a strong possibility of objections being filed against some or all of these applications.

Delaware is of course the state most big US companies choose to register themselves in, due to its generous company laws.

Dot Registry applying for four US-only gTLDs

Dot Registry LLC, a new company to the domain name industry, has applied to ICANN for four company-themed gTLDs, saying it has the backing of US secretaries of state.

It’s going for .inc, .corp, .llc and .llp.

CEO Shaul Jolles says the plan is for all four to be restricted to US-registered companies, even though some other countries give their companies the same labels.

“While the extensions do exist in other countries, they do not have definitions similar to the entity classifications in the US,” Jolles said in an email.

“We will not offer registrations to companies not registered in the US,” he said. “We chose this option because we are able to easily verify business entity registration in the US.”

Dot Registry, which is using .us contractor Neustar as its registry services provider, says it has support from various US secretaries of state.

As we blogged in April, the president of the National Association of Secretaries of State wrote to ICANN to express reservations about these types of gTLD strings.

But Delaware Secretary of State Jeffrey Bullock indicated in a separate letter that Dot Registry’s propose regime of restrictions, which would manually match domains to company names, might be acceptable.

I’m still somewhat skeptical about the value of these kind of gTLDs. You can pretty much guarantee plenty of pointless defensive registrations, and the benefits seem fuzzy.

“The benefit of these strings is two-fold,” Jolles said. “For consumers it creates a level of reassurance and the ability to quickly ascertain if a company is legitimate or not.”

“From a company perspective it has simple benefits such as guaranteeing that you receive a domain name that matches your registered business name, increased consumer confidence which increases revenue, and a decreased possibility of business identity theft in a cyber setting,” he said.

States will object to .inc, .llc gTLDs

American secretaries of state will object to new gTLD applications for .inc, .corp, .llc and .llp unless they are restricted, the National Association of Secretaries of State has told ICANN.

In a March 30 letter, NASS president Beth Chapman wrote:

While we have concerns about the use of these extensions, if ICANN considers approving these extensions, our members respectfully request that they be approved with restrictions that would attempt to protect legitimate businesses and consumers from confusion or fraud.

The members of NASS believe these extension identifiers (.INC, .LLC, .CORP, .LLP) should only be extended to entities that are also legally and appropriately registered with the Secretaries of State, or the equivalent state agency. The entity purchasing a new domain name should be the same entity registered with a Secretary of State or equivalent state agency.

The sentiment was a repeat of views expressed in a March 20 letter from Jeffrey Bullock, secretary of state of corporation-friendly Delaware.

Bullock said that Delaware “would object to the granting of such strings without restrictions”.

Neither letter acknowledges that the corporate suffixes Inc, Corp and LLP are also used elsewhere in the world.

Both letters refer to DOT Registry, a start-up with plans to apply to ICANN for .inc, .corp and .llc.

DOT Registry plans to put restrictions in place to ensure only registered companies can register domains, Bullock wrote.

I’m not familiar with DOT Registry’s plans, but in general I’m not keen on this type of gTLD string. They strike me as pointless, more likely to create defensive registration revenue than any benefit.