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ICANN sets deadline to sort out Olympic shambles

Kevin Murphy, September 17, 2012, Domain Policy

ICANN’s board of directors has set itself a deadline to come to a decision on special new gTLD protections for the International Olympic Committee and Red Cross.
It’s looking rather like the IOC, Red Cross and Red Crescent are going to get more of the concessions they’ve been asking for for the last few years, including protection at the second level.
In a resolution passed last week, the ICANN board urged the Generic Names Supporting Organization to make recommendations before January 31 next year, and indicated that it would take matters into its own hands if GNSO consensus cannot be found.

Resolved, the Board thanks the GNSO for its continued attention and ongoing work on this topic, and requests that the GNSO continue its work on a policy recommendation on second-level protections for the IOC and Red Cross/Red Crescent names on an expedited basis.
Resolved (NG2012.09.13.01), if it is not possible to conclude the policy work prior to 31 January 2013, the Board requests that the GNSO Council advise the Board by no later than that date if it is aware of any reason, such as concerns with the global public interest or the security or stability of the DNS, that the Board should take into account in making its decision about whether to include second level protections for the IOC and Red Cross/Red Crescent names

The GNSO has a working group looking at the problem, which is currently deciding whether to recommend starting a formal Policy Development Process.
Given that new gTLDs are expected to start launching in less than a year, and given that PDPs take forever to wrap up, if they ever do, it’s also trying to decide whether to recommend that the IOC/RC/RC marks should be protected in the interim.
Exact matches of the Olympic and Red Cross names, as well as a limited number of translations, would be “reserved” or otherwise removed from sale by each new gTLD registry.
The ICANN board appears to be leaning towards granting these interim protections. In last week’s resolution, it stated:

the Board favors a conservative approach, that restrictions on second-level registration can be lifted at a later time, but restrictions cannot be applied retroactively after domain names are registered.

The IOC/RC/RC debate has been going on since June 2011, when the ICANN board gave the organizations temporary top-level protection in new gTLDs and then passed the hot potato to the GNSO.
The GNSO working group tasked with sorting through the resulting policy mess was subsequently hindered by procedural posturing and acrimony at the Council level and an unreceptive board.
There’s a parallel argument going on at the moment with intergovernmental organizations demanding the same or greater protection, too. Expect IGOs to react with further (mock?) outrage if the IOC/RC/RC get special treatment.
Recently unredacted ICANN board briefing documents reignited the IGO debate last week.

Secret ICANN briefing fuels IGO new gTLDs debate

Kevin Murphy, September 10, 2012, Domain Policy

The Universal Postal Union, newly installed .post registry manager, has launched a withering attack on ICANN for protecting some intergovernmental organizations and not others.
Its salvo follows the release of briefing materials — previously redacted — that ICANN’s board was given when it approved the new gTLD program at the Singapore meeting in June 2011.
The UPU says that the documents show that ICANN engaged in “ex post facto attempts at justifying legally-flawed decisions” when it decided to give extra protection to the Olympics and Red Cross/Red Crescent movements.
As you may recall, these protections were granted by the ICANN board when the program was approved, following lobbying of the Governmental Advisory Committee by both organizations.
In the current round, nobody was allowed to apply for gTLDs such as .redcross or .olympic, or translations in dozens of languages. There are also ongoing talks about extending this protection to the second level.
Some have argued that this would lead to a “slippery slope” that would resurrect the problematic Globally Protected Marks List, something ICANN and the GAC have denied.
They have maintained that the IOC/RC/RC movements are unique — their marks are protected by international treaty and many national laws — and no other groups qualify.
Other IGOs disagree.
Almost 40 IGOs, including the United Nations and International Telecommunications Union, are lobbying for an additional 1,108 strings to be given the same protection as the Olympics.
If they get what they want, four applied-for gTLDs could be rejected outright and dozens of others would be put at risk of failing string similarity reviews.
According to the UPU’s latest letter, ICANN’s newly disclosed rationale for giving only the IOC/RC/RC organizations special privileges was based on a flawed legal analysis:

most of the recommendations contained in documents such as the Unredacted Paper seem to reflect, in an unambiguous way, ex post facto attempts at justifying legally-flawed decisions in order to narrow even further the necessary eligibility “criteria” for protection of certain strings, apparently so that only two organizations would merit receiving such safeguards under the new gTLD process.

In other words, according to the UPU and others, ICANN found itself in a position in June 2011 where it had to throw the GAC a few bones in order to push the new gTLD program out of the door, so it tried to grant the IOC/RC/RC protections in such a way that the floodgates were not opened to other organizations.
You can read the unredacted ICANN briefing materials here. The UPU letter, which deconstructs the document, is here.
It’s worth noting that the Applicant Guidebook already gives IGOs the explicit right to file Legal Rights Objections against new gTLD applications, even if they don’t have trademark protection.

What’s wrong with Melbourne IT’s new anti-cybersquatting plan?

Kevin Murphy, August 16, 2012, Domain Policy

Genuine question.
Melbourne IT, the Aussie registrar with the increasingly vocal brand-protection focus, has come up with a new scheme for protecting super-famous brands after new gTLDs start to launch.
It draws on elements of the abandoned Globally Protected Marks List, ICM Registry’s Sunrise B policy, .CO Internet’s launch program, and various recent demands from the intellectual property community.
It’s called the paper Minimizing HARM (pdf), where HARM stands for High At-Risk Marks.
The title may set off grammatical alarm bells, but the rest reads like the least-unreasonable proposition for protecting big brands from cybersquatters that I’ve come across in a long time.
What I like about it is that it’s actually contemplating ways to prevent gaming from the outset, which is something the IP lobby hardly ever seems to do when it demands stronger rights protection mechanisms.
The idea calls for the forthcoming Trademark Clearinghouse to flag a narrow subset of the trademarks in its database as High At-Risk Marks that deserve special treatment.
Melbourne IT has organizations such as PayPal and the Red Cross in mind, but getting on the list would not be easy, even for famous brands.
First, companies would have to prove they’ve had trademark protection for the brand in three of ICANN’s five geographic regions for at least five years — already quite a high bar.
Implemented today, that provision could well rule out brands such as Twitter, which is an obvious high-risk cybersquatting target but might be too young to meet the criteria.
Dictionary words found in any of UN’s six official languages would also be banned, regardless of how famous the brand is. As the paper notes, that would be bad news for Apple and Gap.
Companies would also have to show that their marks are particularly at risk from phishing and cybersquatting.
Five successful UDRP complaints or suspensions of infringing domains by a “top ten registrar” would be enough to demonstrate this risk.
But that’s not all. The paper adds:

In addition to meeting the minimum criteria above, the High At-Risk Mark will need to obtain a minimum total points score of 100, where one point is awarded for each legal protection in a jurisdiction, and one point is awarded for each successful UDRP, court action, or domain registrar suspension undertaken in relation to the mark.

That appears to be setting the bar for inclusion high enough that an OlympicTM pole-vaulter would have difficulty.
Once a brand made it onto the HARM list, it would receive special protections not available to other brands.
It would qualify for a “Once-off Registration Fee”, pretty much the same as ICM’s .xxx Sunrise B, where you pay once to block your exact-match domain and don’t get pinged for renewal fees every year.
Any third parties attempting to register an available exact-match would also have to have two forms of contact information verified by the gTLD registry before their names resolved.
The Trademark Claims service – which alerts mark owners when somebody registers one of their brands – would run forever for HARM-listed trademarks, rather than just for the first 60 days after a gTLD goes into general availability.
The always controversial Uniform Rapid Suspension service would also get tweaked for HARM trademarks.
Unless the alleged cybersquatter paid the equivalent of a URS filing fee (to be refunded if they prevail) their domains would get suspended 48 hours after the complaint was filed.
I’m quite fond of some of the ideas in this paper.
If ICANN is to ever adopt a specially protected marks list, which it has so far resisted, the idea of using favorable UDRP decisions as a benchmark for inclusion – which I believe Marque also suggested to ICANN back in February – is attractive to me.
Sure, there are plenty of dumb UDRP decisions, but the vast majority are sensible. Requiring a sufficiently high number of UDRP wins – perhaps with an extra requirement for different panelists in each case – seems like a neat way of weeding out trademark gamers.
The major problem with Melbourne IT’s paper appears to be that the system it proposes is just so complicated, and would protect so few companies, that I’m not sure it would be very easy to find consensus around it in the ICANN community.
I can imagine some registries and registrars might not be too enthusiastic when they figure out that some of the proposals could add cost and friction to the sales process.
Some IP owners might also sniff at the some of the ideas, just as soon as they realize their own trademarks wouldn’t meet the high criteria for inclusion on the HARM list.
Is Melbourne IT’s proposal just too damn sensible to pass through ICANN? Or is it riddled with obvious holes that I’ve somehow manged to miss?
Discuss.

Olympics wastes more money on ICANN nonsense

Kevin Murphy, May 14, 2012, Domain Policy

International Olympic Committee lawyers have lodged an official appeal of ICANN’s latest decision to not grant it extra-extra special new gTLD protection.
The [O]Lympic Cafe, close to both DI headquarters and the London 2012(TM) Olympic(TM) Park, which apparently found a novel solution when the IOC's lackeys came knocking.The IOC last week filed a Reconsideration Request asking the ICANN board to rethink an April 10 decision that essentially ignored the latest batch of “.olympic” special pleading.
As previously reported, ICANN’s GNSO Council recently spent a harrowing couple of meetings trying to grant the Olympic and Red Cross trademarks even more protection than they already get.
Among other things, the recommendations would have protected strings confusingly similar to “.olympic” at the top level in the new gTLD program.
But a month ago the ICANN board of directors’ newly created, non-conflicted new gTLD program committee declined to approve the GNSO Council’s recommendations.
The committee pointed out in its rationale that the application window is pretty much closed, making changes to the Applicant Guidebook potentially problematic:

a change of this nature to the Applicant Guidebook nearly three months into the application window – and after the date allowed for registration in the system – could change the basis of the application decisions made by entities interested in the New gTLD Program

It also observed that there was still at that time an open public comment period into the proposed changes, which tended to persuade them to maintain the status quo.
The decision was merely the latest stage of an ongoing farce that I went into much more detail about here.
But apparently not the final stage.
With its Reconsideration Request (pdf), the IOC points out that changes to the Applicant Guidebook have always been predicted, even at this late stage. The Guidebook even has a disclaimer to that effect.
The standard for a Reconsideration Request, which is handled by a board committee, is that the adverse decision was made without full possession of the facts. I can’t see anything in this request that meets this standard.
The IOC reckons the lack of special protections “diverts resources away from the fulfillment of this unique, international humanitarian mission”, stating in its request:

The ICANN Board Committee’s failure to adopt the recommended protection at this time would subject the International Olympic Committee and its National Olympic Committees to costly and burdensome legal proceedings that, as a matter of law, they should not have to rely upon.

Forgive me if I call bullshit.
The Applicant Guidebook already protects the string “.olympic” in over a dozen languages – making it ineligible for delegation – which is more protection than any other organization gets.
But let’s assume for a second that a cybersquatter applies for .olympics (plural) which isn’t specially protected. I’m willing to bet that this isn’t going to happen, but let’s pretend it will.
Let’s also assume that the Governmental Advisory Committee didn’t object to the .olympics application, on the IOC’s behalf, for free. The GAC definitely would object, but let’s pretend it didn’t.
A “costly and burdensome” Legal Rights Objection – which the IOC would easily win – would cost the organization just $2,000, plus the cost of paying a lawyer to write a 20-page complaint.
It has already spent more than this lobbying for special protections that it does not need.
The law firm that has been representing the IOC at ICANN, Silverberg, Goldman & Bikoff, sent at least two lawyers to ICANN’s week-long meeting in Costa Rica this March.
Which client(s) paid for this trip? How much did it cost? Did the IOC bear any of the burden?
How much is the IOC paying Bikoff to pursue this Reconsideration Request? How much has it spent lobbying ICANN and national governments these last few years?
What’s the hourly rate for sitting on the GNSO team that spent weeks coming up with the extra special protections that the board rejected?
How much “humanitarian” cash has the IOC already pissed away lining the pockets of lawyers in its relentless pursuit of, at best, a Pyrrhic victory?

ICANN reopens defensive registration debate

Kevin Murphy, April 13, 2012, Domain Policy

ICANN’s board of directors wants more policy work done on the problem of defensive domain name registrations.
In a resolution passed at a meeting on Tuesday, the board’s newly created New gTLD Program Committee, made up exclusively of non-conflicted directors, said it:

directs staff to provide a briefing paper on the topic of defensive registrations at the second level and requests the GNSO to consider whether additional work on defensive registrations at the second level should be undertaken

The decision was made following the debate about “defensive” gTLD applications ICANN opened up in February, prompted by a letter from US Department of Commerce assistant secretary Larry Strickling.
That in turn followed the two Congressional hearings in December, lobbied for and won by the Association of National Advertisers and its Coalition for Responsible Internet Domain Oversight.
So this week’s decision is a pretty big win for the intellectual property lobby. It’s managed to keep the issue of stronger second-level trademark protection in new gTLDs alive despite ICANN essentially putting it to bed when it approved the new gTLD program last June.
The GNSO could of course decide that no further work needs to be done, so the champagne corks should probably stay in place for the time being.
At the same meeting on Tuesday, the ICANN board committee voted to disregard the GNSO Council’s recent decision to grand extra protections to the International Olympic Committee, Red Cross and Red Crescent movements. The rationale for this decision has not yet been published.

The Olympics and the death of the GNSO, part deux

Kevin Murphy, March 26, 2012, Domain Policy

ICANN’s GNSO Council today narrowly voted to approve controversial special brand protections for the Olympic and Red Cross movements in the new gTLD program.
The vote this afternoon was scheduled as an “emergency” measure after the Council’s dramatic showdown at the ICANN public meeting in Costa Rica earlier this month.
Then, the Non-Commercial Stakeholders Group forced a deferral of the vote on the grounds that ICANN’s proper bottom-up policy-making processes had not been followed.
Today, a virtually identical motion barely squeaked through, turning on just a single vote after all six NCSG councilors abstained in protest.
It was a fairly tense discussion, as these things go.
“This is a sham of a proposal cooked up by a couple of lobbyists and shoved down the GNSO’s throat and that’s why I’m abstaining,” said Robin Gross, sitting in for absent councilor Wendy Seltzer.
“I’m abstaining to avoid the downfall of the GNSO Council,” said fellow NCSG councilor Rafik Dammak.
Essentially, the non-coms are upset that the decision to give special protection to the Olympics, Red Cross and Red Crescent appeared to be a top-down mandate from the ICANN board of directors last June.
(The board was itself responding to the demands of its Governmental Advisory Committee, which had been lobbied for special privileges by the organizations in question.)
ICANN policies are supposed to originate in the community, in a bottom-up fashion, but in this case the normal process was “circumvented”, NCSG councilors said.
Rather than bring the issue of special protection to the GNSO constituencies of which they are members, the IOC and Red Cross went directly to national governments in the GAC, they said.
The motion itself is to create a new class of “Modified Reserved Names” for the new gTLD program’s Applicant Guidebook, comprising solely of strings representing the Olympic and Red Cross.
Unlike the current version of the Guidebook, the International Olympic Committee and Red Cresent and Red Cross would actually be able to apply for their own brands as gTLDs.
The Guidebook would also give these Modified Reserved Names the same protection as ICANN itself in terms of string similarity – so Olympus might have a problem if it applies for a dot-brand.
Of course, the GNSO Council resolution does not become law unless it’s approved by the ICANN board of directors and implemented by staff in the Applicant Guidebook.
With the March 29 and April 12 application deadlines approaching, there’s a limited – some might say negligible – amount of time for that to happen if the GNSO’s work is to have any meaning.
That said, ICANN chair Steve Crocker said on more than one occasion during the Costa Rica meeting that he wants the board to be more flexible in its scheduling, so it’s not impossible that we’ll see an impromptu board meeting before Thursday.

Olympic showdown spells doom for ICANN, film at 11

Kevin Murphy, March 19, 2012, Domain Policy

ICANN’s 43rd public meeting, held in Costa Rica last week, was a relatively low-drama affair, with one small exception: the predicted death of ICANN’s Generic Names Supporting Organization.
The drama went down at the GNSO Council’s meeting last Wednesday – or “the day that everyone is going to remember as the downfall of the current GNSO Council” as vice-chair Jeff Neuman put it.
It had all the elements one might expect from an ICANN showdown: obscure rules of engagement, government meddling, special interests, delayed deadlines, whole oceans of acronym soup, commercial and non-commercial interests facing off against each other…
…and it was ultimately utterly, utterly pointless and avoidable.
The GNSO Council – which is responsible for forwarding community policies to ICANN’s board of directors – was asked to vote on a resolution giving special trademark protections to the International Olympic Committee and Red Cross and Red Crescent movements.
The resolution would have made it possible for the IOC/RC/RC organizations to apply for new gTLDs such as .olympic and .redcross while also disallowing confusingly similar strings from delegation.
The motion was created by a Drafting Team on the instruction of the ICANN board of directors, itself responding to a request from a heavily lobbied Governmental Advisory Committee.
The timing of the vote was crucial – the GNSO Council was not set to meet again until April 12, coincidentally the same date that ICANN stops accepting applications for new gTLDs.
If the vote didn’t happen last week, the IOC and Red Cross could have been basically banned from applying for new gTLDs until the second application round, years from now.
Confusingly similar strings would be eligible for delegation in the first round, however, which could mean both organizations would be locked out of the program permanently.
The resolution enjoyed broad support and was set to attract positive votes from every constituency group with the exception of the Non-Commercial Stakeholders Group.
The Non-Coms were unhappy that the Drafting Team recommendations underlying the resolution were, and still are, open for public comment.
While it’s not a unanimous view, they’re also ideologically opposed to the idea that the IOC and Red Cross should get special protection when a cheap way to object to confusing gTLDs already exists.
And the NCSG is far from alone in its concern that the decision to grant special privileges to these groups was a top-down decree from the ICANN board, lobbied for by the GAC.
Rather than simply voting “no”, however, the NCSG decided instead to force a deferral of the vote.
NCSG councilor Rafik Dammak said the resolution was “questionable on the merits and contrary to ICANN’s processes” and said the group had decided it had “no option but to defer this motion at least until the public comment period is closed”.
The GNSO Council has an unwritten but frequently used convention whereby any stakeholder group request to defer a vote until the next meeting is honored by the chair.
Barely a Council meeting goes by without one stakeholder group or another requesting a deferral. Usually, it’s requested to give a constituency group more time to study a proposal.
“The deferral request is intended to give people time to consider motions,” Council chair Stephane Van Gelder told Dammak. “The statement you just read is a statement against the motion itself.”
As Van Gelder noted, the NCSG did not have the usual excuse. Drafting Team chair Jeff Neuman had spent a few weeks prior to Costa Rica making damn sure that every stakeholder group, as well as the ICANN board, knew exactly what was coming down the pike.
As a veteran GNSO wonk, Neuman knew that a Non-Com deferral was likely. Even I predicted the move over a week before the Costa Rica meeting kicked off.
He was a little pissed off anyway. Neuman said:

For us to not be able to vote today is a failure. It’s a failure of the system under the guise of claiming you want more public comment. It’s a convenient excuse but in the end it’s a failure – nothing more, nothing less. This is a slap in the face to the governments that have asked us to decide.
You already know how you’re going to vote, it’s clear the vote is going to be no, so why don’t you stand behind your vote and vote now and vote no. That is what you really should be doing.
I want everyone to remember today – March 14, 2012 – because it this is the day that everyone going to remember as the downfall of the current GNSO Council as we know it and the policy process as we know it. Mark my words, it will happen. The GAC has asked us to act and we have failed to do so.

See? Drama.
Neuman noted that the deferral tradition is an unwritten politeness and called for the Council to vote to reject the NCSG’s request – an unprecedented move.
Van Gelder was clearly uncomfortable with the idea, as were others.
NCSG councilor Bill Drake said Neuman’s call for a vote on the deferral was “absolutely astonishing”.
“I never would have imagined I could say ‘well I don’t like this, this annoys me’ and so I’m going to demand we get a vote together and try to penalize a minority group that’s standing alone for some principle,” he said. “If that’s how we going to go about conducting ourselves perhaps this is the end of the Council.”
The Non-Com position also found support from other constituencies.
While Mason Cole of the Registrars Stakeholder Group said he would have voted in favor of the resolution, he said the way the policy was created looked like “a circumvention of the bottom-up policy development process”.
To cut a long story short (too late), after a spirited debate that lasted over an hour Van Gelder honored the NCSG deferral request, saying “something that we’ve always allowed in the past for everyone else should not be overturned in this instance”.
This would have pushed the vote out to the April 12 meeting — the NCSG would have effectively killed off the resolution purely by virtue of the new gTLD program timetable.
Neuman, however, had already invoked another quirk of the GNSO rules of engagement, demanding an emergency Council teleconference to vote on the resolution.
That’s now scheduled for March 26. Assuming the resolution is approved, the ICANN board will have just three days to rubber-stamp it before ICANN’s TLD Application System stops accepting new users.
If the Olympic or Red Cross organizations have any plans to apply for new gTLDs matching their brands, they’re going to have to be very quick.
Frankly, the IOC/RC issue has been a bit of a clusterfuck from beginning to end. This is one of those cases, it seems to me, in which every party involved is wrong.
The GAC was wrong to demand unnecessary special protections for these bodies back in June.
The ICANN board of directors was wrong to overturn established bottom-up policy when it gave the GAC what it wanted at the Singapore meeting.
The ICANN staff implementation that made it into the Applicant Guidebook last September was wrong and full of loopholes.
The Drafting Team was wrong (albeit through no fault of its own) to assume that it was refining established law rather than legislating.
The GNSO Council was wrong to consider a resolution on a policy that was still open for public comment.
The Non-Coms were wrong to abuse the goodwill of the Council by deferring the vote tactically.
There are probably a few typos in this article, too.
But does it spell the end of the GNSO?
I don’t think so. I suspect Neuman’s doomsaying theatrics may have also been somewhat tactical.
The GAC, which wields the hypothetical kill-stick, has yet to say anything about the drama. This may change if the GAC doesn’t get what it wants by the Prague meeting in June, but for now the GNSO is, I believe, safe.

Six hot topics for new gTLD applicants at ICANN 43

Kevin Murphy, March 11, 2012, Domain Policy

Hundreds of stakeholders are gathering in San Jose, Costa Rica today for the first official day of ICANN’s 43rd public meeting.
While the news that the US government has deferred the renewal of ICANN’s IANA contract for another six months has set the most tongues wagging so far, there’s a lot more going on.
In this in-depth DomainIncite PRO ICANN 43 preview, we take a look at:

  • Why many attendees think the shock IANA news is a personal slight against ICANN CEO Rod Beckstrom.
  • How protecting the Olympic and Red Cross trademarks could lead to the new gTLD application window being extended.
  • Why the Governmental Advisory Committee is pushing for greater powers to reject new gTLD applications.
  • Which companies have applied for the potentially lucrative Trademark Clearinghouse contract (and which one is our favorite to win), and why unanswered questions have the IP community worried.
  • What criteria new gTLDs will be judged against after they launch.
  • Why critical talks between ICANN and domain name registrars could lead to the retail price of domain names doubling, and why that probably won’t happen any time soon.

DomainIncite PRO subscribers can read the full analysis here. Non-subscribers can find subscription information here.

Olympic gTLD showdown coming in Costa Rica

Kevin Murphy, March 5, 2012, Domain Policy

While the ICANN public meeting in Dakar last October was notable for a heated clash between governments and the domain name industry, the Costa Rica meeting next week may be characterized by these two recent enemies uniting against a common enemy.
ICANN staff.
Members of the Generic Names Supporting Organization, the Governmental Advisory Committee and the At-Large Advisory Committee all appear to be equally livid about a last-minute new gTLD program surprise sprung by ICANN late last week.
The hitch relates to the ongoing saga about special brand protection for the International Olympic Committee, Red Cross and Red Crescent movements in the new gTLD program.
The need to develop rights protection mechanisms for essentially just three organizations has always been a slightly ridiculous and unnecessary premise, but recently it has assumed symbolic proportions, cutting to the heart of the multistakeholder model itself.
Now, following a perplexing eleventh-hour ICANN mandate, Costa Rica is likely to see some fierce debate about the ICANN decision to kick off the new gTLD program last June.
We expect the GNSO and the GAC to show a relatively united front against ICANN staff on the IOC/RC issue. The At-Large Advisory Committee is also set to throw a bomb or two.
There’s even an outside chance that upcoming talks could wind up adding delay to the next phase of the new gTLD program itself…
The full text of this pre-ICANN 43 policy analysis is available to DomainIncite PRO subscribers here.

Olympics warming to new gTLD bid?

Kevin Murphy, February 23, 2012, Domain Policy

ICANN’s new generic top-level domains Applicant Guidebook may be modified to make it clear that the International Olympic Committee can apply for .olympic if it wants to.
That’s judging by the current state of negotiations in an ICANN working group set up to give special protection to Olympic and Red Cross/Red Crescent trademarks.
Currently, the Guidebook contains a multilingual list of strings related to the Olympic and Red Cross brands that are completely banned from delegation as gTLDs.
But a GNSO working group seems to be rapidly veering towards a recommendation that the ban should be waived if the IOC and Red Cross decide to apply.
The IOC and Red Cross would therefore be able to get their hands on .olympic and .redcross.
Both organizations are closely involved in these talks, which suggests that they may not be entirely hostile to the idea of running their own dot-brand gTLDs after all.
The GNSO working group is also considering the idea that the Olympic and Red Cross trademarks should be protected by string similarity reviews, which is not the case currently.
This could mean, for example, that non-identical gTLDs such as .olympus might have to get IOC backing if they want their applications approved.
The GNSO Council is expected to vote to approve or reject the recommendations at its meeting in San Jose, Costa Rica next month.
It’s not clear whether this would give ICANN enough time to rubber-stamp the decision before the new gTLD application window closes to new applicants March 29.
The decision would not be non-controversial, however. Some ICANN community members are not in favor of granting special trademark protections to anyone.
The GNSO working group has also been tasked by the Governmental Advisory Committee with coming up with second-level protections for the Olympics and Red Cross, but this policy work is unlikely to bear fruit until after the new gTLD application window closes.