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ICANN Must Now Decide String Similarity Question

Statton Hammock

Yesterday, a decision on a string confusion objection was reached by a dispute resolution provider that resulted in a scenario that ICANN and the Applicant Guidebook had not addressed — conflicting opinions have been rendered by expert panelists ruling on the exact same pair of strings. One of our applications now hangs in the balance.

The expert panelist for the International Centre for Dispute Resolution (ICDR) assigned to decide the string confusion objection filed by VeriSign against United TLD's .CAM application, issued a decision sustaining VeriSign's objection that .CAM and .COM are confusingly similar. This decision effectively prevents United TLD's application from moving forward in the application process.

Regardless of whether one believes the expert's reasoning was sound or erroneous, the decision should move ICANN and the community into action because last week the ICDR issued two decisions which denied VeriSign's objection against AC Webconnecting BV's application and dotAgency Limited's application for the very same .CAM string.

String confusion objections are meant to be applicant agnostic and have nothing to do with the registration or use of the new gTLD. What matters in string confusion objections is whether a string is visually, aurally or, according to ICANN's Applicant Guidebook, otherwise "so nearly resembles another that it is likely to deceive or cause confusion." Individuals may disagree on whether .CAM and .COM are similarly confusing, but there can be no mistake that United TLD's .CAM string, AC Webhosting's .CAM string, and dotAgency Limited's .CAM string are all identical. Either all three applications should move forward or none should move forward.

Kevin Murphy interviewed ICANN's Generic Domains Division President Akram Atallah about this possible scenario in a blog post last week. Atallah explained that: "If we do get a case where we have a situation where a singular and a plural string — or any two strings actually — are found to be similar, the best outcome might be to go back to the GNSO or to the community and get their read on that. That might be what the board might request us to do."

ICANN needs to reconcile these three decisions so the outcome of .CAM is treated consistently across all three applications.

By Statton Hammock, Vice-President, Business & Legal Affairs, Demand Media

Related topics: Domain Names, ICANN, Policy & Regulation, Top-Level Domains

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Comments

Consistent inconsistencies Peter Young  –  Sep 06, 2013 8:28 AM PDT

Hi Statton

I found your newly formed stance on the .cam/.com decisions very interesting. In particular, I noticed with wry amusement your use of the word “consistent” in the last paragraph of your post.

I recall that United TLD was particularly vociferous in its rejection of the proposal for consolidation. To quote from the letter written by your lawyers to the ICDR:

“Consolidation has the potential to prejudice the Applicants if all Applicants' arguments are evaluated collectively, without regard to each Applicant's unique plan for the .cam gTLD and their arguments articulating why such plans would not cause confusion.”

But then in your Circle ID post you say:

“String confusion objections are meant to be applicant agnostic and have nothing to do with the registration or use of the new gTLD”

Perhaps I am missing something, but I just cannot reconcile these two statements, not only are they clearly inconsistent, they appear to be diametrically opposed . Consistency in a process is generally a laudable goal, consistency in a belief is essential, even though I don’t believe that process consistency is relevant here. Equally laudable is keeping ones stated beliefs consistent even in the face of adversity. As the late Margaret Thatcher said:

"To those waiting with bated breath for that favourite media catchphrase, the U-turn, I have only one thing to say: You turn if you want to. The lady's not for turning”

To my mind, it seems as though United TLD took a gamble, that its application for .cam stood out from the others. It seems your panellist agreed.

All the best

Peter

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