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Directi says Karsten threatened it over .ping gTLD

Kevin Murphy, September 27, 2012, Domain Registries

The golf club maker Karsten has launched an attack on Directi due to their dispute over the new gTLD .ping, following through on threats Directi says the company made last month.

Karsten’s outside counsel, Paul McGrady of Winston & Strawn, filed over 200 comments and a 500-page letter against Direct’s new gTLD applications last night, shortly before the ICANN deadline.

In the comments, McGrady says that Directi should be banned from running any new gTLDs because its affiliated privacy service, PrivacyProtect.org, has lost dozens of UDRP cases.

But Directi said today that the Strawn comments — filed against applications such as .web, .hosting and .app — are just a smokescreen for Karsten’s claim over .ping.

Ping is a brand of golf clubs Karsten sells at ping.com, but Directi plans to use the gTLD in its other, geeky sense, open to all-comers.

Directi says that Karsten told it in an August 8 letter to withdraw the .ping bid or face action. According to Directi, the letter said in part:

Karsten is preparing to post this letter and the attached public comments for each of your applications, not just .ping, prior to the end of the public comment period. Once filed, this letter and the public comments will also be sent to the ICANN Board and Senior Staff. Further, as you know, Karsten may seek relief from the courts, through ICANN’s various processes, and through raising awareness of your activities within the ICANN community generally. Karsten will pursue all appropriate means to ensure that all of your applications are rejected.

Directi said in a statement: “Karsten is our only competitor for the .ping bid and their comment is submitted in bad faith and to further their self-interest.”

CEO Bhavin Turakhia said that PrivacyProtect.org did not own any of the domain names listed in the UDRP cases McGrady cited, it merely acted as the privacy service.

The company removes the privacy protection when UDRPs are filed, he said, but the registrant’s identity is not always listed in the published decision.

Directi expects all 31 of its gTLDs to be contested

Directi has applied for 31 new top-level domains and expects all 31 of them to be contested, according to CEO Bhavin Turakhia.

The company has budgeted $30 million for its unashamedly mainstream portfolio of applications – which includes the likes of .web – but that’s not including what it expects to spend at auction.

“I expect there to be contention in all of them,” he said. “Whether they will end up going to auction… we’re completely open to strategic partnerships with other industry players who we believe can add value and join hands with us, based on merit. We’ll be evaluating this on a case by case basis.”

“Something like a .web, there’ll be enough competitors out there that it will certainly go to auction, no matter what,” he said, adding that he expects at least 10 rivals for .web.

Directi has applied for: .web, .shop, .bank, .law, .music, .news, .blog, .movie, .baby, .store, .doctor, .hotel, .play, .home .site, .website, .click, .online, .one, .ping, .space, .world, .press, .chat, .city, .deals, .insurance .loans, .app, .host, and .hosting.

The company is applying via its new business unit, Radix, using ARI Registry Services as its back-end registry provider.

Turakhia said he expects to use a traditional registry-registrar model for most of the domains, assuming Directi wins its contention sets.

“The strings that we have gone for are strings that are relevant to all registrars so we expect there to be significant adoption,” he said.

“If eNom were to apply for .web and .shop – and they probably will – and if they were to win those TLDs, then our registrar businesses would definitely carry them irrespective of the fact that we have our own TLDs,” he said. “There are only so many good viable strings out there.”

Most of Directi’s gTLDs, if approved, will be completely unrestricted.

For .movie, .law, .doctor and .bank there will be some tight restrictions, Turakhia said. (UPDATE: he later added that .insurance and .loans will also be restricted).

Some will also have additional rights protection mechanisms that go above and beyond what ICANN mandates in its standard registry contracts.

But none of its applications are “community” applications, the special category of application defined by ICANN.

Turakhia said he doesn’t think some of the applicants trying to “sneak through” as community applications will be successful.

“We’re treating these as all generic strings for anyone to register domains in,” he said. “.music for me does not represent a community. I could be a bathroom singer and want a .music domain name.”

“If you treat music lovers as a community then 100% of the world is part of that community.”