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Bulgaria and Greece win IDN ccTLDs on appeal

Kevin Murphy, October 15, 2014, Domain Policy

Campaigns in Bulgaria and Greece to get ICANN to un-reject their Cyrillic and Greek-script ccTLD requests have proven successful.
The first decisions handed down by ICANN’s new Extended Process Similarity Review Panel this week said Bulgaria’s .бг and Greece’s .ελ are not “confusingly similar” to other ccTLDs after all.
However, a third appeal by the European Union over the Greek .ευ was rejected on the grounds that the string is too confusingly similar to .EV and .EY when in upper case.
Confusing strings should not be delegated, under ICANN rules, due to the risk of exacerbating the prevalence of security risks such as phishing attacks.
Bulgaria’s initial request for .бг was turned down in 2010 after a panel found it looks too similar to Brazil’s existing ccTLD, .br.
Greece’s bid for .ελ had been blocked for looking too much like .EA, a non-existent ccTLD that could be delegated to a new country in future.
While the initial panel’s process was pretty opaque, the newly published “extended” reviews appear to have employed a fairly scientific methodology to determine similarity.
Twenty American undergraduate student volunteers were shown pairs of strings briefly on screens designed to simulate web browsing. They then had to pick out which one they’d seen.
The volunteers were also shown pairs of similar-looking Latin-script ccTLDs that already exist, in order to establish a baseline for what should be considered an acceptable level of confusability.
The Greek and Bulgarian strings were both found to be less confusing than existing pairs of Latin-script ccTLDs and were therefore given the thumbs-up. The EU string flunked in upper case.
Under ICANN’s rules, it appears that .бг and .ελ can now proceed to delegation, while .ευ has been forever rejected.
The three reports can be downloaded here.
It will be interesting to see how the ICANN Governmental Advisory Committee will react to this.
It was pressure from the GAC — driven by the European Commission and Greece — back in 2012 that forced ICANN into creating the appeals process.
At ICANN’s meeting in Prague that year, the GAC said:

The GAC is of the view that decisions may have erred on the too-conservative side, in effect applying a more stringent test of confusability between Latin and non-Latin scripts than when undertaking a side by side comparison of Latin strings.

Now the EU seems to have been told that it still can’t have its requested ccTLD, and the standard applied was exactly the same standard as applies to Latin ccTLDs.
Will the GAC accept this determination, or stomp its feet?