Earlier this month, ICANN’s 37th international meeting in Nairobi concluded. Safenames, along with the rest of the Internet and trademark communities, were following the meeting closely as it was expected that many decisions regarding the proposed “New gTLDs” would be finalized by the ICANN Board. However, few official decisions were made. While ICANN stated that it remains committed to the new gTLD program, the timing of an official launch date for new TLDs remains unclear and just one key decision was handed down by the Board and one decision was pushed to the Generic Names Supporting Organization (gNSO).
ICANN chose to proceed with the current implementation process for launch of the New gTLD Program, rather than adopting a new proposal to institute an “Expressions of Interest” (EOI), a pre-registration process that was intended to serve as a “fast-track” for those companies and individuals wishing to apply for a new generic top-level domain (gTLD). Under the EOI proposal, an upfront payment of $50,000 dollars would have been paid to ICANN as a deposit against the $185,000 new TLD application fee. The current process still has a number of hurdles to overcome with the ICANN community before we expect to see approval by the board.
There are three main issues that have direct impact to the trademark community and must be resolved before new TLD will be approved. These issues include:
- Trademark Holder Clearinghouse – A universal database for trademark holders that would be used by all registries during the trademark sunrise period. This would not be a reserved list, rather a simplified process for validating trademark holders when a new TLD is launched.
- Uniform Resolution Suspension (URS) Process – A process for trademark holders similar to a UDRP, however URS would be done completely online and could be submitted in bulk. Another key difference to a UDRP is that domains would only suspended in a URS and not turned over to the trademark holder.
- Post Delegation Dispute Mechanism – A formal process to handle systemic abuse by a registry. This would address the issue of a registry facilitating trademark violations or not taking the appropriate steps to address trademark issues after a TLD has delegated.
Several ICANN constituency groups along with ICANN staff are working on the specific details for each of these items. The recommendations of the ICANN community and staff are expected to help the Board decide if these should be included in the new TLD process and how the should be implemented, if it is determined that they must be part of the process.
The ICANN Board also decided push the decision of allowing vertical integration in the domain name registration space to the gNSO. There is current requirement that a distinct business separation must exist between registries (wholesale) and registrars (retail). While this issue may have little impact to the trademark community, it was an important topic for the greater Internet community and the open issue that has to be resolved prior to the launch of new gTLDs.
The Public Comment Period remains open until April 1, 2010 for new TLD issues. If you wish to send comments to ICANN on this matter, please visit http://www.icann.org/en/topics/new-gtlds/comments-analysis-en.htm. ICANN has stated that it will increase its efforts on communicating the plans for new gTLDs across the globe and also resolving of remaining issues. We expect that a final draft of the Applicant Guidebook (DAG 4.0) will be published for comment prior to the next ICANN Meeting, to be held in Brussels on June 20-25, 2010.
Safenames will continue to keep you updated as we learn more about new developments with the new gTLD program.