Just four weeks after the first new gTLDs went into general availability, the Trademark Clearinghouse has already sent out over 17,500 Trademark Claims notices to trademark owners.
A Claims notice is a warning that is generated whenever somebody registers a domain name that exactly matches a trademark listed in the TMCH’s database.
The 17,500 number refers to post-registration notices sent to trademark owners, not pre-registration warnings delivered to would-be registrants.
Considering that there are somewhere in the region of 180,000 domain names in new gTLDs today, 17,500 represents a surprisingly high percentage of the market (high single figures).
Of course, not all of these will be due to cybersquatting attempts.
There are plenty of marks in the TMCH that are acronyms or dictionary words, either because they match a genuine brand or because somebody obtained trademarks on generic terms in order to game sunrise periods.
I’d count those as false positives, personally, but it’s impossible to know without access to TMCH data how many of the 17,500 alerts delivered to date can be accounted for in that way.
There are 26,802 marks in the TMCH, according to the company.
Registrars representing less than 40% of the gTLD market are ready to offer new gTLDs during their launch phases, according to the latest stats from ICANN.
ICANN released yesterday a list (pdf) of the just 21 registrars that have signed the 2013 Registrar Accreditation Agreement and have been certified by IBM to use the Trademark Clearinghouse database.
Signing the 2013 RAA is a requirement for registrars that want to sell new gTLDs. Almost 150 registrars are currently on the new contract.
But being certified for the TMCH is also a requirement to sell names during the first 90 days of each new gTLD’s general availability, when the Trademark Claims service is running.
Together, the 21 registrars that have done both accounted for 59 million registered gTLD domain names (using August’s official numbers), which translated to 39.5% of the gTLD market.
It’s a high percentage due to the presence of Go Daddy, with its 48.2 million gTLD names. The only other top-10 registrar on the list is 1&1.
Twelve of the 21 registrars on the list had fewer than 40,000 names under management. A couple have fewer than 100.
Only one new gTLD, dotShabaka Registry’s شبكة., is currently in its Trademark Claims period.
The second batch, comprising Donuts’ first seven launches, isn’t due to hit until January 27, giving just a few weeks for the certified list to swell.
There’ll be 33 new gTLD in Claims by the end of February.
The rate at which new registrars are being certified by IBM is not especially encouraging either. Only four have been added in the last month.
Some registrars may of course choose to work via other registrars, as a reseller, rather than getting certified and doing the TMCH integration work themselves.
The Trademark Clearinghouse is to give the intellectual property lobby something that it’s been crying out for for years — an indefinite extension of parts of the Trademark Claims service.
And it’s going to be free.
Trademark Claims is a mandatory service for all new gTLD operators, sending pre-registration warnings to registrants and post-registration alerts to mark owners whenever a domain matching a trademark is registered.
But it only runs for 90 days, per the ICANN new gTLD contracts, which TMCH project director Jan Corstens said is IP owners’ “number one complaint” about the system.
So the TMCH is going to extend the post-registration alerts half of the service indefinitely.
When the first new gTLDs officially end their Claims periods next year, the TMCH will continue to send out alerts to mark owners (or, in 90% of cases, their registrar “agents”) when matching domains are registered.
Would-be registrants will only receive their pre-registration warnings for the original 90-day period.
Corstens said that the pre-registration side of Claims would only be possible with the cooperation of registries and registrars, and that there’s a lot of reluctance to help out.
“A lot of them are not really interested in doing that,” he said. “I understand it takes work, and I understand they think it could demotivate potential registrants.”
Trademark owners that have directly registered with the Clearinghouse, rather than going through an agent, will get the extended service for no added charge.
However, Corstens made it clear that the TMCH is not trying to compete with registrars — such as MarkMonitor and Melbourne IT — that already offer zone file monitoring services to trademark owners.
“We know the market exists,” he said. “It’s not our intention to become a monopoly. We will deliver it to them, of course, and assume they can integrate with it.”
Agents will be able to plug the service into their existing products if they wish, he said.
There are a few initial limitations with the new TMCH service such that its registrar agents may not find it particularly labor-saving.
First, only domains that exactly match labels in the Clearinghouse will generate alerts.
By contrast, brand-monitoring registrars typically generate alerts when the trademark is a substring of the domain. To carry on doing this they’ll need to carry on monitoring zone files anyway.
Second, the TMCH service only currently covers new gTLDs applied for in the 2012 round. It doesn’t cover .com, for example, or any other legacy gTLD.
Corstens said both of these limitations may be addressed in future releases. The first Trademark Claims period isn’t due to end until March, so there’s time to make changes, he said.
He added that he hopes the extension of Claims will lead to an uptick in the the number of trademarks being registered in the TMCH. Currently there are about 20,000.
New gTLD applicants and ICANN seem to have failed to reach an agreement on how new registries can roll out founders programs when they launch.
A new draft of the Rights Protection Mechanism Requirements published last night, still appears to make it tricky for new gTLD registries to sell domain names to all-important anchor tenants.
Applicants want text adding to the Requirements document that would allow them to give or sell a small number of domains to third parties — namely: anchor tenants — before and during Sunrise periods.
Their suggested text reads:
As set forth in Specification 5 of the Agreement, Registry Operator MAY activate in the DNS up to one hundred (100) names necessary for the operation and promotion of the TLD. Pursuant to these Requirements, Registry Operator MAY register any or all of such domain names in the TLD prior to or during the Sunrise Period to third parties in connection with a registry launch and promotion program for the TLD (a “Qualified Registry Launch Program”), provided that any such registrations will reduce the number of domain names that Registry Operator MAY otherwise use for the operation and promotion of the TLD as set forth in Specification 5.
The base new gTLD Registry Agreement currently allows up to 100 names to be set aside before Sunrise only on the condition that ownership stays in the hands of the registry for the duration of the registration.
Left unaltered, that could complicate deals where the registry wants to get early registrants through the door to help it promote its gTLD during the critical first few months.
A second request from applicants deals with the problem that Sunrise periods also might interfere with preferred allocation programs during the launch of community and geographic gTLDs.
An example given during the recent ICANN Durban meeting was that of the .london registry giving first dibs on police.london to the Metropolitan Police, rather than a trademark owner such as the Sting-fronted band.
The applicants have proposed to allow registries to request “exemptions” to the Requirements to enable this kind of allocation mechanism, which would be offered in addition to the standard obligatory RPMs.
Because these documents are now open for public comment until September 18, that appears to be the absolute earliest date that any new gTLD registry will be able to give its mandatory 30-day pre-Sunrise warning.
In other words, the hypothetical date of the first new gTLD launch appears to have slipped by a couple of weeks.
The Generic Names Supporting Organization isn’t dead after all.
ICANN’s Board Governance Committee has retracted a document related to new gTLD trademark protections that some on the GNSO Council believed spelled the end of the multistakeholder model as we know it.
The BGC, in rejecting a formal Reconsideration Request related to the “Trademark+50″ mechanism, had used a rationale that some said was overly confrontational, legalistic and gave ICANN staff the ability to ignore community input more or less at will.
We reported on the issue in considerable detail here.
The committee on Friday retracted the original rationale, replacing it with one (pdf) that, while still containing some of the flawed reasoning DI noted last month, seems to have appeased the GNSO Council.
Neustar policy VP Jeff Neuman, who raised the original concerns, told the Council: “I believe the rationale is much more consistent with, and recognizes, the value of the multi-stakeholder model.”
The BGC did not change its ultimate decision — the Reconsideration Request has still been rejected and Trademark+50 is still being implemented in the new gTLD program.