Three already-live TLDs are going to use the Trademark Clearinghouse to handle sunrise periods, possibly before the first new gTLDs launch.
BRS Media is set to use the TMCH, albeit indirectly, in its launch of third-level domains under .radio.am and .radio.fm, which it plans to launch soon as a budget alternative to .am and .fm.
The company has hired TM.Biz, the trademark validation firm affiliated with EnCirca, to handle its sunrise, and TM.biz says it will allow brand owners to leverage Clearinghouse records.
Trademark owners will be able to submit raw trademarks for validation as in previous sunrises, but TM.Biz will also allow them to submit Signed Mark Data (SMD) files, if they have them, instead.
Encrypted SMD files are created by the TMCH after validation, so the trademarks and the strings they represent are pre-validated.
There’ll presumably be some cost benefit of using SMD files, but pricing has not yet been disclosed.
Separately, Employ Media said today that it’s getting ready to enter the final stage of its .jobs liberalization, opening up the gTLD to essentially any string and essentially any registrant.
The company will also use the TMCH for its sunrise period, according to an ICANN press release, though the full details and timing have not yet been announced.
Unusually, .jobs is a gTLD that hasn’t already had a sunrise — its original business model only allowed vetted company-name registrations.
The TMCH is already accepting submissions from trademark owners, but it’s not yet integrated with registries and registrars.
Trademark owners will be able to add potentially thousands of strings to the Trademark Clearinghouse due to a recently introduced loophole, it emerged last night.
ICANN recently said that it will allow mark holders to add up to 50 strings related to their trademarks to their TMCH records, if the strings have been abused in the past.
It was one of the controversial “strawman” proposals that ICANN decided to adopt earlier this month.
Companies would be able to get protection for “mark+keyword” strings, for example, if a UDRP decision or court ruling had previously found that the strings had been cybersquatted.
The 50-string cap appeared to have been picked rather arbitrarily, but it turns out it’s more-or-less irrelevant anyway.
ICANN confirmed on its webinar for new gTLD applicants last night that the limit is 50 additional strings per entry in the Clearinghouse, not 50 strings per trademarked string.
What this means is that a company that has registered its trademark in multiple jurisdictions will be able to get 50 extra strings for each of those marks it enters into the Clearinghouse.
If Apple had a registered mark for “Apple” in the US and a registered mark for “Apple” in Bolivia, it would be able to submit both to the Clearinghouse and get an additional 100 “apple+keyword” records.
If it had the mark registered in 100 countries, it could put up to 5,000 more strings in the Clearinghouse.
Each string could be used to generate Trademark Claims notices, but not to secure registrations during Sunrise periods.
The apparent loophole and its implications were raised by Reg Levy of Minds + Machines during last night’s ICANN call.
In practice, the number of additional strings mark holders would qualify for would be capped by the number of trademark jurisdictions in the world and/or the number of UDRP decisions they’d won.
Few companies have secured more than a few hundred domains at UDRP to date, meaning it won’t be too difficult for trademark owners to get Trademark Claims protection for basically any previously cybersquatted string.
A California lawsuit that threatened to scupper all seven applications for the .web new gTLD has been thrown out.
The judge in Image Online Design v ICANN yesterday granted ICANN’s motion to dismiss the case, saying that IOD had no claim for breach of contract and, significantly, that “.web” is too generic to be a trademark.
Here’s the money quote:
This court agrees with ICANN that the mark .WEB used in relation to Internet registry services is generic and cannot enjoy trademark protection.
IOD applied for .web during ICANN’s proof-of-concept new gTLD round in 2000, but was not approved.
It sued ICANN last October, claiming breach of contract and trademark infringement and interference with its business.
The company has been running .web in an alternate DNS root, where hardly anyone uses it, since the 1990s.
Unfortunately for IOD, when it applied in 2000 it signed a document releasing ICANN from all legal liability in relation to the application, so the judge yesterday ruled that it could not sue for breach of contract.
The court also upheld the longstanding position of the US courts that top-level domains cannot be trademarks.
The US Patent & Trademark Office is of the view that TLDs do not indicate the source of goods or services; only the second-level domain does.
IOD had argued in court that, with the imminent introduction of dot-brands, the USPTO expects to modify its position. The judge in this case, Dean Pregerson, agreed in part, stating:
For instance, if ICANN were to introduce the TLD .APPLE, the user would arguably expect that that TLD is administered by Apple Inc. In such a case, the TLD might be considered a source indicator. If Sony tried to administer the TLD .APPLE, Apple Inc. would likely argue and possibly prevail on a trademark infringement claim.
This said, it appears to the court that today only the most famous of marks could have a source indicating function as a TLD. Some marks, such as .WEB, might remain generic even if they were famous, since .WEB in connection with registry services for the World Wide Web appears to refer to the service offered, rather than to only a particular producer’s registry service.
the mark .WEB is not protectable under traditional trademark analysis because it “seems to represent a genus of a type of website” and thus answers the question “What are you?” rather than “Who vouches for you?”
IOD’s other claims were also thrown out. Read the court’s order here.
The ruling means that a similar lawsuit filed by fellow 2000-round new gTLD applicant Name.Space, which is looking for an injunction against 189 gTLD applications, may be on shaky ground too.
ICANN has picked a provider for its Uniform Rapid Suspension anti-cybersquatting service, one that’s willing to manage cases at under $500 per filing.
The news came from new gTLD program manager Christine Willett during webcast meetings this week.
“We have identified a provider for the URS who’s going to be able to provide that service within the target $300 to $500 filing fee price range. We’re in the process of formalizing that relationship,” she said last night.
The name of the lucky provider has not yet been revealed — Willett expects that news to come in February — but it’s known that several vendors were interested in the gig.
URS is a complement to the existing UDRP system, designed to enable trademark owners to execute quick(ish) takedowns, rather than transfers, of infringing domain names.
ICANN found itself in a bit of a quandary last year when UDRP providers WIPO and the National Arbitration Forum said they doubted it could be done for the target fee without compromising registrant rights.
But a subsequent RFP — demanded by members of the community — revealed several providers willing to hit the sub-$500 target.
ICANN expects to approve multiple URS vendors over time.
ICANN CEO Fadi Chehade today admitted that he badly handled recent discussions about improving trademark protections in the new gTLD program, saying he made a “mistake”.
The remarks came during his speech at a meeting of registries and registrars in Amsterdam this afternoon.
The address, which along with a Q&A lasted an hour, was remarkable for Chehade’s passion and candor, and his apparently conscious decision to portray himself as an industry man.
But he arguably risked alienating the parts of the ICANN community that would certainly not define themselves as part of the “industry”, such as the intellectual property community.
This was no more evident as when he discussed the controversial trademark protection “strawman” proposals.
“We’re moving very fast at ICANN now,” he said. “You almost have no idea how fast we’re moving. We are opening so many new things and fixing so many things, that frankly should have been done for a long time at ICANN, that the speed at which we’re moving is making me, and sometimes my team, make mistakes.”
“I made one big mistake in the last few months,” he said. “I didn’t quite fully understand… this concept of ‘trying to take a second bite at the apple’, when I engaged with the Trademark Clearinghouse discussions.”
That’s a reference to meetings in Brussels and Los Angeles late last year, convened by Chehade at the request of the Intellectual Property Constituency and Business Constituency.
These meetings came up with the strawman proposals, which would create (arguably) new rights protection mechanisms and bolster others in favor of trademark owners.
Registries, registrars and new gTLD applicants complained that the IPC/BC proposals had already been considered multiple times by ICANN and the community and discarded.
Apparently Chehade has now come around to their way of thinking, helped in part by Non-Commercial User Constituency member Maria Farrell’s complaint about the strawman process.
“I frankly didn’t fully understand until I went through the process, and appreciated what people were actually trying to do,” Chehade said. “So, okay, big learning experience for me… I take it, I move on and hopefully I won’t make that mistake again.”
What does this mean for the strawman? Well, it’s not looking great.
While the proposals are still open for public comment, at some point ICANN is going to have to decide which bits it wants to adopt as “implementation” and which are more suited to policy development.
After today’s comments, I’d expect Chehade to be less inclined to push for the former.