ICANN is going to have to decide whether to approve the new gTLDs .islam and .halal, after the Governmental Advisory Committee punted the issue.
“[T]he GAC concluded its discussions on these applications with the advice provided in the Beijing Communiqué,” Dryden said. “Accordingly, no further GAC input on this matter can be expected.”
ICANN is therefore left with the following advice:
The GAC recognizes that Religious terms are sensitive issues. Some GAC members have raised sensitivities on the applications that relate to Islamic terms, specifically .islam and .halal. The GAC members concerned have noted that the applications for .islam and .halal lack community involvement and support. It is the view of these GAC members that these applications should not proceed.
My take on this is that the GAC has provided what is often called a “non-consensus” objection, which I believe triggers one of the vaguest parts of the Applicant Guidebook.
One of the three types of GAC Advice on New gTLDs reads:
The GAC advises ICANN that there are concerns about a particular application “dot-example.” The ICANN Board is expected to enter into dialogue with the GAC to understand the scope of concerns. The ICANN Board is also expected to provide a rationale for its decision.
It seems pretty obvious now that ICANN’s board — nowadays its New gTLD Program Committee — is expected to make a decision whether to accept or reject .islam and .halal.
It would be the first time that ICANN has had to decide whether to reject a gTLD for public policy reasons without the full backing of the GAC in this application round.
It faced a similar conundrum in the 2003 round — albeit using different rules of engagement — when it had to decide the fate of .xxx (which it obviously chose to approve).
The applicant for .islam and .halal is Turkey-based Asia Green IT System.
The Organization for Islamic Cooperation, which claims to represent 1.6 billion Muslims, does not support the bids. It backed two formal Community Objections to the applications, which both failed.
The OIC’s Council of Ministers is meeting this week in Conakry, Guinea, and is expected to come out with some kind of formal statement opposing Islamic-oriented gTLDs that lack support.
The strength of that statement may prove decisive when ICANN comes to consider the issue.
FLSmidth, a Danish cement company, has withdrawn its application for the new gTLD .fls.
It’s the first dot-brand to be withdrawn from the program in months.
FLSmidth had passed Initial Evaluation and was not facing any objections or Governmental Advisory Committee advice, so it’s not immediately clear why the company decided to pull out.
The company recently reported a fall in profitability, so perhaps it’s just trying to cut costs by eliminating superfluous expenses.
Top Level Domain Holdings has withdrawn its bid for the .roma gTLD, after apparently running afoul of the Italian government.
The gTLD was to represent the city of Rome, but Italy issued the company with an Early Warning (pdf) a year ago saying the company had “No involvement or support from the local authorities” and should withdraw.
TLDH disputed this, saying in November 2012:
In fact the Company had engaged extensively with the relevant local authority and will provide supporting documentation to the Italian GAC member. Once this evidence has been submitted, the Directors believe that the objection will be withdrawn.
The warning did not escalate to full-blown Governmental Advisory Committee advice, but .roma nevertheless failed Initial Evaluation (pdf) due to the lack of documented government support with its application.
The bid was eligible for Extended Evaluation, but it seems that TLDH was unable to get the required level of support or non-objection from Italy to allow the bid to pass.
It’s the second of TLDH’s applications to get killed off by a GAC member. It withdrew its non-geo application for .spa as soon as Belgium started making noises about its own city of Spa.
The company also ditched plans to apply for .mumbai in 2011 due to confusion about whether the city’s government actually supported it or not.
ICANN signed 31 new gTLD Registry Agreements yesterday, 24 of which were with Donuts subsidiaries.
Back-end registry provider Neustar was among a handful of companies signing RAs for their dot-brands too.
Donuts signed contracts for: .haus, .properties, .maison, .productions, .parts, .cruises, .foundation, .industries, .vacations, .consulting, .report, .villas, .condos, .cards, .vision, .dating, .catering, .cleaning, .community, .rentals, .partners, .events, .flights and .exposed.
Top Level Design signed for .ink, which is expected to compete with Uniregistry’s already-delegated .tattoo.
XYZ.com signed for its uber-generic budget offering .xyz.
BusinessRalliart is now contracted for its Japanese geo .okinawa.
IRI Domain Management, affiliated with the Mormon church, got its .mormon RA, for what is expected to be a “highly restricted” religious namespace.
KRG Department of Information Technology got .krd, which it wants to use to serve the Kurdish people and Kurdistan region of Iraq.
Finally, Italian management consultancy Praxi got its dot-brand .praxi.
It seems like it’s been an age since we last heard the intellectual property lobby pushing for stronger rights protection mechanisms in new gTLDs, but they’re back just in time for the first launches.
The Intellectual Property Owners Association has written to ICANN this week to warn about loopholes in the standard new gTLD Registry Agreement related to premium name reservations that the IPO said “will adversely affect trademark rights holders”.
The letter (pdf) makes reference to two specific parts of the contract.
Specification 5 enables registries to reserve up to 100 names “necessary for the operation or promotion of the TLD” in section 3.2 and an unlimited number of names in section 3.3.
Section 3.3 is vague enough that I’m aware of new gTLD applicants that still don’t know whether it allows them to reserve an unlimited number of “premium” names or not.
However, most new gTLD registries I’ve talked to appear to be convinced that it does. DotKiwi’s recently announced premium plan seems to be taking advantage of 3.3.
The IPO is worried that massive lists of premium names will wind up containing lots of strings matching trademarks, which will prevent mark holders from defensively registering during Sunrise.
Worse, the IPO said it could lead to registries milking trademark owners for huge fees to register their “premium” marks. It said:
such reservations would invite the abuse of protected marks. For instance, Registry Operators may reserve the marks of protected brands to leverage premium sales. Further, Registry Operators may use this ability to release names to market competitors of the brand owners.
The counter argument, of course, is that owners of spurious trademarks on generic terms could game Sunrise periods to get their hands of potentially valuable domain names (cf. the .eu sunrise)
The IPO wants ICANN to expand the Trademark Clearinghouse to send Trademark Claims notices to new gTLD registries when they reserve a name matching a listed trademark.
It also wants a new dispute procedure that mark owners could use to get names released from reserved status. It would be like UDRP, but modified to allow for registries to reserve dictionary words related to their gTLD strings, the IPO said.
If my sense of the mood of ICANN’s leadership during last month’s Buenos Aires meeting is anything to go by, I can’t see these last-minute requests for changes to RPMs getting much traction, but you never know.