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ICANN bans closed generics for the foreseeable

Kevin Murphy, January 23, 2024, 15:57:54 (UTC), Domain Policy

There will be no applications for closed generic gTLDs in the 2026 application round, ICANN has confirmed.

While the Org has yet to publish the results of last weekend’s board meeting, chair Tripti Sinha has written to community leaders to let them know that companies won’t be able to apply for exclusive-use, non-trademark strings for the foreseeable future.

The ban follows years of talks that failed to find a consensus on whether closed generics should be permitted, and subsequent advice from the Governmental Advisory Committee, backed up by the At-Large Advisory Committee, that they should not.

Apparently quoting board output from its January 21 meeting, Sinha wrote (pdf):

the Board has considered the GAC Advice and has determined that closed generic gTLD applications will not be permitted until such time as there is an approved methodology and criteria to evaluate whether or not a proposed closed domain is in the public interest.

Closed generics were permitted — or at least not explicitly outlawed — in the 2012 application round, but were retroactively banned by ICANN following GAC advice in 2013, stymying the plans of dozens of applicants.

Ironically, it was the clumsy wording of the 2013 advice that saw the debate re-open a few years ago, with the initiation of a closed-doors, Chatham House Rules “facilitated dialogue” between the pro- and anti- camps, which also failed to reach a consensus.

By drawing a line under the issue now, ICANN has finally officially removed closed generics as a potential delaying factor on the next gTLD application round, which is already 13 years late.

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Comments (2)

  1. John Berryhill says:

    It doesn’t matter. Every dictionary word is someone’s trademark. There are folks in the IP lobby who are already ginning up membership “certification marks” to position as “brand TLDs” in which every name will be registered to the brand owner and licensed to the “members” who are licensees of the marks.

    Then, having positioned these things as “brand TLDs”, the objective is to remove failure safeguards and other restrictions that would otherwise protect gTLD registrants. This is the way forward for essentially opting out of various ICANN policies that apply to gTLD’s, while effectively running a registry that otherwise functions as a gTLD with a low “membership” requirement for the licensee/registrants.

    • Rubens Kuhl says:

      Spec 13 terms were very specific in requiring the brand license to extend to more than just domain registration. So far this proved to be a good deterrence since no TLD has tried such a gimmick… and some brand TLDs were actually moved to standard TLDs.
      2026 applicants might be “more creative”, but if you want to suggest any specific contractual language, the IRT hasn’t reached that topic yet and could use your guidance.

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