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Registrars given access to Trademark Clearinghouse

Kevin Murphy, October 5, 2013, Domain Registrars

Accredited registrars on older contracts can now get access to the Trademark Clearinghouse for testing purposes, ICANN announced last night.

Previously, ICANN was only handing out credentials to registrars on the new 2013 Registrar Accreditation Agreement, but many registrars complained that this didn’t give them time to evaluate the TMCH and the RAA at the same time.

ICANN had originally argued that the restriction made sense because the TMCH is used only for new gTLDs, and registrars must have signed the 2013 RAA to sell new gTLD domains.

But feedback from registrars has helped it change its mind. ICANN said:

all ICANN accredited Registrars, not just those that have signed the 2013 Registrar Accreditation Agreement (RAA), will be able to request registration tokens and start testing their systems with the Trademark Clearinghouse database before it must begin its authenticating and verifying services for trademark data.

Instruction for signing up for TMCH testing can be found here.

Teething troubles for TMCH testing

Kevin Murphy, September 5, 2013, Domain Registries

With the first new gTLD delegation likely just a matter of weeks away, registries and registrars are reporting problems getting access to the Trademark Clearinghouse for testing purposes.

ICANN launched an OT&E (operational test and evaluation environment) for companies to test their systems against the IBM-run TMCH back-end last week, but few have so far managed to get in.

Some registrars have been denied access because they have not yet signed the 2013 Registrar Accreditation Agreement.

While that’s a prerequisite for selling new gTLD domains, some say it should not also be a barrier to testing their TMCH implementation before they decide to sign on the dotted line.

At least one registrar that has actually signed the 2013 RAA also says it has been denied access.

Meanwhile, several back-end applicants and back-end registry providers have reported that they too have been told they can’t access the OT&E until they’ve signed the 2013 RAA.

Registries are of course not obliged to sign any RAA in order to act as registries.

Others say they’ve received the credentials needed to access the OT&E but that they don’t work.

ICANN has blamed a mix-up in its workflow for the registries getting blocked, something it expects to get fixed quickly. It’s also looking into the complaints from registrars.

The TMCH is the database that registries and registrars will use to validate trademarks during sunrise periods, and to check for possible cybersquatting during the first few months of launch.

dotShabaka Diary — Day 2

Kevin Murphy, August 11, 2013, Domain Registries

This is the second in DI’s series following the progress of شبكة. applicant dotShabaka Registry as it prepares to be one of the first new gTLD registries to launch.

The following journal entry was written by dotShabaka general manager Yasmin Omer:

Date: Saturday 10 August 2013

It has been nearly a month since we signed our Registry Agreement with ICANN and we are still confused about TMCH Integration Testing, which is a concern given it’s now seven weeks out from ICANN’s first delegation date.

Whilst we have access to the Sandbox LORDN file test environment, ICANN happened to mention that the ‘OT&E environment’ is available in this week’s webinar. That’s new information.

We still have no idea what the process is for TMCH integration testing or how we access the environment. Are there test cases? What’s the schedule?

The lack of information is a concern as we need to pass TMCH Integration to provide Sunrise notice. Let’s hope it’s not as complicated as PDT.

In other news, we received an email from Wendy Profit (Registry Product Manager) yesterday. It’s the first formal email we have received since signing our contract nearly a month ago.

The email contained a copy of the contract and a spreadsheet for contact details. Not sure if Wendy is indeed our account manager or if we even have one. We have sent an email asking her the same. Clearly we have a few questions for an Account Manager once we get one.

You can read past and future entries in this series here.

dotShabaka wants to be the first new gTLD to launch, but big problems remain

Having been the first to sign a contract with ICANN two weeks ago, new gTLD registry dotShabaka is also desperate to be the first to launch, but faces big obstacles.

The company, International Domain Registry, is a spin-off of AusRegistry, with many of the same directors and staff, but executives insist it is an entirely separate entity and will become more so with time.

It was awarded, uncontested and unobjected, the Arabic TLD شبكة., which means “.web” and transliterates to “.shabaka”. It will do business under the trading name dotShabaka Registry.

According to the Registry Agreement published by ICANN last week, it was signed on July 13, one day before the other three registries to so far get contracts.

“It was a lot of work to make sure we were the first to sign, and we intend to be the first to delegation,” general manager Yasmin Omer told DI last week.

“The best-estimate timeline published by ICANN in Durban is our timeline, that’s our target,” she added.

The timeline she’s referring to (pdf) is the one that says the first new gTLD could hit the root as early as September 5, with the first Sunrise period kicking off a month later.

Omer is slightly less optimistic about the timing, however, saying that “mid-September” is looking more likely, due to the requirements of the Pre-Delegation Testing period that dotShabaka is currently in.

The company is doing preliminary PDT work right now and expects to start testing properly in the first week of August.

But PDT is not the only thing standing in dotShabaka’s — and other new gTLD applicants’ — path to delegation.

Right now, the Trademark Clearinghouse and the 2013 Registrar Accreditation Agreement are the big barriers, Omer said.

TMCH requirements not ready

The TMCH is a problem because ICANN has still not finalized the TMCH’s RPM Requirements document, a set of rules that each new gTLD registry must adhere to in their Sunrise and Trademark Claims phases.

“A group within NTAG and the Registries Stakeholder Group has been negotiating this document with ICANN for some time now, going back and forth,” Omer said. “It’s all fine for those who intend on launching later on, but this document has yet to be finalized and that really harms us.”

A draft of the Requirements document (pdf) was published in April, and Omer said she expects ICANN to take a more up-to-date draft to public comment.

A standard 42-day comment period, starting today, would end mid-September.

As we reported in April, the Requirements raises questions about whether registries would, for example, be able to create lists of reserved premium domains or whether trademark owners would always get priority.

dotShabaka faces an additional problem with the TMCH because its gTLD is an Arabic string and there are been very little buy-in so far from companies in the Arabic-speaking world.

A couple of weeks ago, TMCH execs admitted that of the over 5,000 trademarks currently registered in the TMCH, only 13 are in Arabic.

In Durban, they said that the TMCH guidelines were not yet available in Arabic.

Part of the problem appears to be that a rumor was spread that the TMCH does not support non-Latin scripts, which executives said is not remotely true.

With so little participation from the Arabic trademark community, an early شبكة. launch could mean a woefully under-subscribed Sunrise period — 30 days to protect just a handful of companies.

“There’s no knowledge of the TMCH in the region,” Omer said.

“We’re currently putting our heads together to think of mechanisms to overcome this,” she said. “We don’t just want to be first to delegate and have it sit there idly, we want to be first to market as well.”

dotShabaka has been doing its own press in the region and claims to have taken thousands of expressions of interest in the gTLD, indicating that there is a market if awareness can be raised.

Registrars are a problem

Signing the 2013 Registrar Accreditation Agreement is a requirement for any registrar that want to sell new gTLDs, and that includes IDNs. Only seven registrars have publicly signed it to date.

According to Omer, the 2013 RAA’s stricter requirements are “not helping us in the region”.

Its provisions related to insurance can be “prohibitive to those located to those located in North Africa and the Middle East”, she said by way of an example.

In addition, there are only about seven accredited registrars in the region, all on older RAA versions, she said.

dotShabaka has already signed up Go Daddy and others to carry شبكة., so getting the TLD into the channel is not a problem.

But while Go Daddy will have an Arabic landing page for the TLD it will not have a full Arabic-language registration process and shopping cart ready in time for شبكة.’s planned launch window launch.

This makes me wonder whether there’s a risk that domain savvy Westerners are more likely to get a crack at the best شبكة. names before the Arab world is fully aware of the launch.

But Omer said that dotShabaka is doing its own outreach and that it’s committed to improving the “horrible” online experience for Arabic speakers that exists today.

“It’s not just about the TLD, it’s about the cause, it’s about an Arabic internet,” she said. “Yes there are issues and yes there are barriers, but we want to build more robust Arabic domain name market.”

Trademark Clearinghouse cutting it fine for new gTLD launches

Kevin Murphy, July 16, 2013, Domain Policy

The Trademark+50 rights protection mechanism for new gTLDs is late, potentially complicating the lives of trademark professionals.

During a session with registries and registrars at ICANN 47 in Durban today, executives from IBM and Deloitte, which are managing the Trademark Clearinghouse, laid out their go-live expectations.

The TMCH is the central repository of trademark records that will support the mandatory Sunrise periods and Trademark Claims services during new gTLD launches.

Trademark+50 is the system approved by ICANN earlier this year that will also trigger Claims notices for up to 50 strings trademark owners have won at UDRP or in court.

IBM and Deloitte said that they hope to have a Sunrise sandbox ready for registry testing by the end of July, with a production environment live by August 9 and Claims following a month later.

These were hopes, not commitments, they stressed.

When asked about Trademark+50, an IBM representative acknowledged that it had to be ready before any new gTLD started its Claims period but said it is going to take “months” to implement.

“It’ll be in time, it’ll be before Claims start,” he said.

“It’s probably going to be difficult to reach before the middle of September,” another TMCH exec said. “We know it cannot be the week before Claims starts, it cannot be two weeks or three weeks before Claims starts.”

ICANN still hasn’t finalized its set of requirements for Trademark+50, but the TMCH executives said they hope to get that settled in Durban this week, possibly this evening.

So what’s going to be impact of the expected TMCH go-live schedule? It doesn’t seem likely to delay the launch of the first new gTLDs.

ICANN doesn’t expect the first Trademark Claims period to begin until November, which gives the first registries two months to test their systems against Trademark+50. Tight, but doable.

The real impact might be on trademark owners.

ICANN’s current earliest projection for a new gTLD being delegated is September 5. On that date, the first registry could choose to give trademark owners the 30-day mandatory Sunrise warning.

So the first Sunrise period would start October 5 or thereabouts.

That’s where it starts getting tricky.

See, the TMCH’s early bird pricing ends the day the first Sunrise period begins, so there’s certain to be a mad rush by trademark owners to get their trademarks registered in the first week of October.

Even if many brands aren’t too worried about being protected in the IDN gTLDs that will launch first, they’ll want to secure the discount if they have a large portfolio of trademarks.

And history has shown most trademark owners leave Sunrise registrations to the last minute. That’s why pretty much every Sunrise period to date has been extended — the registry can’t cope with the influx.

In the case of the TMCH, however, they’re also going to be battering a Trademark+50 system that’s been in production for no more than a couple of weeks and will, software being software, likely be full of bugs.

It could get messy.

“When IP owners find out that this is not going to be in production a week or two or a few weeks before the first [new gTLD] goes into Claims, they’re going to go ballistic,” Neustar VP Jeff Neuman said at the session today.

At the very least, it looks like trademark owners will have only a brief window to add their extra strings — which could amount to hundreds in many cases — to their TMCH records before the first Sunrise.

That scenario is mostly speculation, of course, based on a first delegation date that ICANN admits is “hypothetical” and the TMCH’s tentative schedule outlined today.

IBM and Deloitte execs are expected to provided a fuller explanation of the current state of play during a dedicated session in Durban on Wednesday at 11am local time.