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ICANN Should Clarify Position On Key Word New TLDs

Michele Neylon

Back in September a number of domain name industry leaders wrote to ICANN to express deep-felt concerns about some companies' declared plans for generic domain name extensions.

We have sent ICANN another letter this week which is also planned to be distributed in a press release included below.

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Blacknight Asks ICANN to Clarify Position on Generic Key Word New TLDs
Leading Irish registrar and hosting company say non-trademarked words belong to everyone

January 25, 2013, Carlow, Ireland - Blacknight has sent a second letter to ICANN urging the organization to formally clarify its position on Generic Key Word TLDs.

Blacknight and fellow signatories of the letter seek clarification on non-trade marked generic key word TLDs, specifically whether ICANN will allow them to be operated in a "closed" manner. The most recent version of the "Registry Operator Code of Conduct" states that any applicant who wishes to operate a closed TLD would file an exception request to operate the TLD thusly.

The letter encourages ICANN to consider the adoption of a process in which applicants who wish to operate a closed TLD, meet certain, transparent criteria.

The letter suggests that to gain an exception, a registry must only use the TLD for its exclusive use, not make domain names available for public registration and provide proof that "application of this Code of Conduct to the TLD is not necessary to protect the public interest."

While there are several issues regarding New gTLDs that remain unclear, this issue most directly affects the public.

Michele Neylon of Blacknight explains: "As a community, we supported a program that would expand the name space for competition, to further the Internet and to provide a broader choice for our customers. Our collective aim is to help the Internet into this next stage, not to take generic key words that essentially belong to "everyone" and tie him or her up."

The letter states that an exception should be made only if: "The trademark to which the .brand is an identical match is the subject of trademark registrations of national effect in at least three countries in each of at least three of the five ICANN regions, for first round applicants, the registrations of national effect must have been issued on or before June 27, 2008, and the trademark is otherwise eligible for inclusion in the Trademark Clearinghouse."

Kathy Kleiman of Fletcher, Heald & Hildreth who is also a signatory observed: "a number of applications seek to run 'generic word' strings in a completely closed and vertically integrated fashion. Those who have signed the letter wish to see ICANN resolve the ambiguity surrounding these applications consistent with the limited scope of the exception, and provide clarity for New gTLD applicants."

Blacknight has sent a previous letter in September 2012 to ICANN expressing concern that it is generally understood that new gTLDs would be operated in a closed manner only under very defined circumstances.

The ICANN board will meet to discuss this and other New gTLD issues in the coming week.

By Michele Neylon, MD of Blacknight Solutions. More blog posts from Michele Neylon can also be read here.

Related topics: ICANN, Internet Governance, Policy & Regulation, Top-Level Domains

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Hi gang.Here are some observations, as a Mike OConnor  –  Jan 25, 2013 8:36 AM PST

Hi gang.

Here are some observations, as a fellow participant in the VI Working Group.

-- This issue was right at the heart of the VI-WG discussion.  My read of the Board's decision (and subsequent implementation in the Guidebook) is that vertical integration is allowed, unless it creates a competition problem.

-- My read of the "internal use only" exemption that's in the Applicant Guidebook is available to ALL applicants, not just "dot-brand" applicants (since there's no reference to the "dot-brand" concept in the Code). 

-- The whole point of the exemption is to allow registries the option of not offering their domains through ANY registrars (except their own).  Dot-brand people were the most visible proponents of this view, but dot-generics fit the same bill.

-- It's hard to understand how your proposed process works: how do you make equal access a requirement for getting an exemption from equal access?

So I'm not surprised by the closed-generic applications, in fact I would have been surprised if there hadn't been any.

BTW, isn't this proposal a lot like the kerfuffle over the Strawman Solution?  A second bite at the VI apple?  Wouldn't it need to go through some kind of policy-making process, and be similarly unfair to organizations who built applications under the current structure?

I don't understood this kerfuffle Avri Doria  –  Feb 01, 2013 10:06 AM PST

I have never seen a contradiction in being closed, either for a brand or for other closed gTLD, and the requirements for Registrar Equal Opportunity.

Even if a registry takes advantage of VI, signs the RAA and pays their fee, they can still be open to other registrars who meet the same conditions, e.g.

- All registrations, renewals and removals MUST be pre-approved by Department of Approvals
- The fee for all registrations will be equal to the ICANN fee + a fixed service surcharge
- Registrar MAY NOT market other services to registrants without first receiving Purchase Order from Department of Procurement.

I ask, what is the problem? 

Sure some of us have attachements to words.  And some words like 'book,' seem downright sacred.

But that does not make a difference in terms of Registrar Equal Opportunity (REO).  Nor does if seems to transgress any other of the bottom-up policies on new gTLDS.

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