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, Rightside
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