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Is ICANN ready to start rejecting some new gTLDs?

Kevin Murphy, November 4, 2013, 11:26:53 (UTC), Domain Policy

Is ICANN getting ready to give marching orders to new gTLD applicants? It seems likely given recent hints out of LA.
Currently, of the original 1,930 new gTLD applications, 125 have been withdrawn but only two or three have been rejected.
GCC’s .gcc and DotConnectAfrica’s .africa are both “Not Approved” while Nameshop’s .idn failed to pass its applicant support program tests and seems to have been put aside for this round.
But there are at least 22 active applications that are due to be hit with the ban hammer, by my reckoning. That’s not including those that may be killed off by Governmental Advisory Committee advice.
First, there are seven bids (so far) that have failed Community Objections or Legal Rights Objections filed against them, or have lost String Confusion Objections filed by existing TLD operators.
Applications such as Ralph Lauren’s .polo, Dish DBS’ .direct and Demand Media’s .cam have fallen foul of these three objection types, respectively.
Under the Applicant Guidebook rules, these applications are not allowed to proceed.
There are also 10 active applications for .home and five for .corp, two gTLD strings ICANN has said it will not approve due to their substantially higher risk of causing name collisions.
(Personally, I think these applicants should get full refunds — ICANN screwed up by not doing its homework on name collisions before opening the application window last year).
So far, ICANN seems to have been waiting for applicants to withdraw, rather than initiating a formal rejection.
But none of them actually have withdrawn.
The International Union of Architects, which won a Community Objection against Donuts over .architect in September, has noticed this too, and recently wrote to ICANN to find out what was going on.
Responding October 31, Generic Domains Division president Akram Atallah wrote (with my emphasis):

as a result of the objection determination, we have updated the status of the objection on the .ARCHITECT application to “Objector Prevailed” on the Objection Determinations page (­‐status/odr/determination) of the New gTLD microsite. Additionally, we will be updating the overall status of this application on the New gTLD microsite (­‐result/applicationstatus) pursuant to Section of the Applicant Guidebook in the near future.

This suggests either a “Not Approved” status for .architect, or a new status we haven’t seen before, such as “Lost Objection”.
So could, for example, Demand Media’s .cam application be rejected? Demand lost a SCO filed by Verisign, but its two competitors for the string prevailed in virtually identical cases.
Would it be fair to reject one but not the others, without any kind of ICANN review or oversight?
Last week at the conference in Munich, I asked Atallah a question during a panel discussion about consistency in the new gTLD program, with reference to objections.
I was on stage and not taking notes, but my recollection is that he offered a not at all reluctant defense of subjectivity in panelists’ decision-making.
It was certainly my impression that ICANN is less troubled by inconsistent rulings than the applicants are.
In the .architect case, Atallah told the UIA that ICANN intends to implement objection rulings, writing:

ICANN will, of course, honor all panel decisions regarding objection determinations, unless directed to do otherwise by some action, for example, by virtue of Reconsideration Requests or other accountability mechanisms or action of the ICANN Board of Directors. To our knowledge, Spring Frostbite [Donuts] has not filed a Reconsideration Request or invoked an Independent Review Process with respect to this objection determination regarding the .ARCHITECT string.

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Comments (6)

  1. gpm group says:

    It was certainly my impression that ICANN is less troubled by inconsistent rulings than the applicants are.
    Why would they be? Doesn’t it depend on the applicants’ intentions? Much the same as UDRP?

    • Kevin Murphy says:

      Not necessarily. There’s some debate, for example, about whether String Confusion Objection panels are supposed to consider proposed usage of the TLD, or just the string itself.

  2. Rubens Kuhl says:

    I don’t see any opening in AGB for not following objections results that wouldn’t open a can of worms of liabilities.
    Although conflicting, the decisions are there. Weird outcome, but the only one that looks plausible.

  3. Couldn’t agree more on your idea for a full refund for any applicant caught in the name-collisions mess. But what about all the additional money they’ve spent? Egad.

    • Kevin Murphy says:

      Anyone who applied for .home or .corp should have known the trouble they were getting into. I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the applicants applied because they thought they could make some money off of the NXD traffic. They don’t deserve anything more than the application fee, imho.

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