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Thursday, July 18. 2013
During the ICANN Durban meeting, Trademark Clearinghouse (TMCH) operator Deloitte appeared confident that this database of trademarks designed for the new gTLD program will soon be ready.
This despite significant additions made to the original brief when ICANN agreed to extend the initial TMCH specifications. The most significant is perhaps the trademark plus 50 provision which aims to allow variants of trademarks to be included in the protection afforded by the TMCH.
Deloitte now expects the TMCH to be ready in "a few weeks", with agent costs (i.e. the prices the authorised TMCH agents would pay and not the fee they would actually charge to their own customers) of around 75 USD to analyse a mark involved in a UDRP proceeding, double that for one involved in a court case and 1 USD per additional variant (i.e. one of the "+ 50" possible variants of the original mark).
Monday, July 15. 2013
The new gTLD program took another step forward today with the official signing of the first contracts to manage new gTLDs during the Durban ICANN meeting's opening ceremony.
The contracts signed were for the arabic version of .web (pronounced "shabaka”). Registry specialists ARI are behind this TLD.
Donuts celebrated signing their first TLD contract with a Chinese language version of the string "game".
Core also signed contracts for the Cyrillic versions of .site and .online.
Wednesday, June 26. 2013
Chehadé initially aimed for a June or July release date. "But in Beijing the community in essence stood me down and told me they weren’t quite ready," he explained, referring to the calls by registrars and registries for more negotiation between them and ICANN staff on the contracts they will be called upon to sign in order to distribute and manage new gTLDs. "So we relented and pushed our timeline back by a couple of months. But we will get this program birthed because if we don’t, then the baby will start getting really sick. This program has been consuming energy and taking resources away from ICANN and preventing us from doing other things that we are also tasked with doing."
Chehadé praised the work done by registrars and registries in moving the contract negotiations forward so that ICANN can proceed to recommend the first new gTLDs for delegation. "We now have a strong, enforceable registrar contract that is better than any contract we’ve ever had before."
Saturday, May 25. 2013
Following the advice received from the Governmental Advisory Committee (GAC) at ICANN's Beijing meeting held last April, new gTLD applicants have been busy drafting responses to what many felt were a new set of rules forced on them by governments.
Starting from April 18, 2013, applicants had 21 days to react to the GAC advice. With that deadline now passed, ICANN has published all the applicant responses. These are available either as individual, per applicant submissions, or as the full set of responses. The latter is a truly daunting 1891 page PDF document weighing nearly 62 mega bytes!
If some of the initial responses in the document are anything to go by, applicants have not taken the GAC's "directives" to them well at all.
"We find it disconcerting that the GAC chose to step beyond its agreed remit and issue the broad, generic Beijing Advice covering all new gTLD applicants," writes Dot Club LLC in its response drafted for its Dot Fish application. "We believe the provision of the Beijing Advice covering all new gTLD applications constitutes a material change to the scope and purpose of the Advice which was to have been provided."
Applicants are arguing that due to repeated delays in the new gTLD program over which they have no control, they have no choice but to play along with governments.
"To avoid delay, we are being asked to agree to provisions in the Registry Agreement ("RA") that appear at first instance to be both ill-defined and over broad," says Dot Wedding applicant Wedding TLD LLC. "The RA itself now rather resembles a contract of adhesion – we are in the territory of take it or leave it. Faced with such, we have no option but to agree to the Safeguards in part as further described below."
But clearly not all applicants share the feeling that a gun has been put to their heads. Dot Bio applicant Starting Dot seems to think the GAC's new requirements are a good thing. "Starting Dot wishes to thank the GAC (…) for designing additional Safeguards for new gTLDs," writes the applicant. "These newly devised Safeguards seek heightened accountability for those new gTLDs involved for instance with issues of consumer protection and regulated sectors."
The controversy generated by the GAC's advice is set to continue as the spotlight now turns to the ICANN Board. The Board's new gTLD Program Committee is readying its own response to the GAC advice.
The Committee will consider applicant responses and comments from the community on how it should react to the governmental advice. This is because a public comment period was opened by ICANN after it received the GAC advice, an extremely unusual step as governmental advice to the ICANN Board is not usually subject to community input.
The new gTLD Program Committee last met on May 18, 2013. Although addressing the GAC advice was on the agenda, no resolution was taken. This may happen at its next meeting, where some in the community expect the Committee to tell the GAC that its advice is simply too broad and therefore impossible to implement as a complete set of recommendations.
Download the applicant responses here.
Read the public comments here.
Saturday, April 13. 2013
(This article was first published in the NetNames Blog) After 10 grueling days of intense meetings, the Governmental Advisory Committee (GAC) has given the ICANN Board its thoughts on the first batch of applications made as part of the new gTLD program.
This GAC “advice” comes in two parts.
Two applications received outright GAC objections, and are therefore unlikely to proceed any further. These are .GCC (contested by some of the Gulf countries claiming similarity between this string and the Gulf Cooperation Council) and .AFRICA submitted by DotConnectAfrica (one of two for this string, and governments have explained that this application did not have official support from the region).
The second part of the advice provided by government has come in the form of “safeguard” advice.
In essence, the GAC has created categories of TLDs which will require additional protections or restrictions to be implemented.
In addition, the GAC also made several other requests, including the singular and plural versions of the same basic string not to be considered separately (.GAME and .GAMES for example) which was a new topic of controversy that developed over the Beijing meeting week.
Finally governments tied the signing of any new gTLD contract to the completion of the new registrar contract currently being finalized.
Read the full GAC document here.
Saturday, April 13. 2013
(This article was first published in the NetNames Blog) The first new gTLD contract will not be approved on 23 April as originally planned. Both the new Registrar Accreditation Agreement (RAA) and Registry Agreement (RA) are simply not ready.
Keeping to the 23 April date would have required a special meeting of the ICANN Board. In fact, one had been planned for this on April 20. But due to ongoing contract negotiations, in Beijing ICANN CEO Fadi Chehadé confirmed that he had asked his Board to cancel this meeting.
“I am anticipating that we will publish the new contracts for the whole community to view early next week,” Chehadé explained on 11 April, the last day of the Beijing conference. “We will then have the mandatory 21-day comment period, and 21-day reply period. However, we will look for agile ways to make sure that we don’t add another 40 days to the program. For example, we may be able to work on operational aspects at the same time as these comment periods”.
A “new gTLD launch party” originally planned for 23 April in New York to celebrate the approval of the first new gTLD contract will still happen, but will now just be an ICANN Public Relations event rather than a celebration.
Wednesday, March 20. 2013
"We are on target with our dates." In a video published today (March 20, 2013), ICANN CEO Fadi Chehadé has reaffirmed his organisation's readiness to execute the new gTLD programme on schedule.
Specifically, Chehadé confirmed that the first batch of Initial Evaluation (IE) results will indeed be published by ICANN this Friday (March 22) as planned. If the new gTLD program was a driving test, then IE is the written exam part. The actual driving test for applications will come later, with pre-delegation technical testing to ensure that everything works as it should. IE is focussed on examining that the applications submitted measure up the new gTLD program's standards of operation, administrative and financial capabilities and resilience. IE results will be published in the order of the prioritization draw held by ICANN last December to assign release priority to the 1,900 applications or so the organisation has received.
But for ICANN, staying on track also means completing the implementation of the Trademark Clearinghouse (TMCH), the database commissioned to provide rights holders with greater protection than ever possible before in the domain name ecosystem.
In the video, Chehadé confirms that rights holders will be able to start accessing the TMCH on March 26, as planned.
But beyond this, a number of additional trademark protections recently requested by the Intellectual Property and Business communities and grouped in what has become known as the "strawman proposal" will be implemented without further delay.
The last feature is probably the one that will resonate the most with trademark holders. What it means is that by registering their trademarks in the TMCH, they will not only be protected for the exact match of the string concerned, but also for up to 50 confusingly similar terms, provided they have been part of a UDRP (the alternative dispute resolution procedure set up specifically for domain names at the start of the century) procedure in the past.
The program's next main deadline is April 23, 2013, when Chehadé's staff plan to be ready to request that the organisation's Board approve the delegation of the first of the new gTLDs, thereby giving the go-ahead for the operator of the first of these new Internet suffixes to sign its contract with ICANN and proceed to launch.
However, Chehadé warned that unless concluded soon, ongoing negotiations with registrars and registries on the contract they will be required to sign with ICANN for new gTLDs could put this date at risk.
Watch the video here.
Wednesday, March 6. 2013
The new gTLD program continues to throw up last-minute debates on what is acceptable as a TLDs and what is not.
The latest such verbal joust centers around closed generics. These are generic terms being applied for by applicants whom, should they be successful, will not open the TLD up to everyone on an equal access basis.
As an example, think .book being run by Amazon and only available to Amazon customers.
In order to understand the arguments for and against closed generics, ICANN has opened a public comment period. That period ends on March 7 and ICANN has so far received 80 emails/opinions on the matter.
Closed generics are striking fear into some people's hearts mainly because of Google and Amazon's bids to secure generic terms like "cloud", "book" or "blog". Noone had ever expected the two Net giants to take such an interest in the new gTLD program in the first place. Let alone show the foresight they have displayed in going for a bevy of generic terms. Many of those operating in the industries those terms describe have been taken by complete surprise.
To them, having a generic term managed according to one entity's rules is heresy. As an example, consider comments drafted by the Federation of European Publishers (FEP) on March 4. "Similarly to the case of trade marks (where generic terms may not be registered), reserving the use of generic terms as gTLDs for individual companies is not desirable," says the FEP, which represents 28 national publishers associations in Europe. "From the point of view of consumer choice, locating a class of goods and a choice of suppliers with the help of the gTLD is by far preferable to its leading to a single producer or retailer."
"At the very least, the winning applicant (for .book) must be obliged to make the gTLD available without discrimination for registrations by all eligible parties, including all commercial entities within the book industry," the FEP goes on to say in its statement which was handed to Nigel Hickson, ICANN VP of Stakeholder Engagement for Europe on March 4, and also posted as a reply to ICANN's call for public comment.
But not everyone is against closed generics. "ICANN should not be dictating business models," wrote a selection of members of ICANN's Non Commercial Stakeholder Group (NCSG) also on March 4. "There should be no intervention until and unless there is a well-documented problem related to monopoly power."
Once the current comment period has closed, ICANN staff will analyse them and provide a summary to the ICANN Board's New gTLD Program Committee. It will be up to this committee to determine whether closed generics should be shut down.
Wednesday, February 27. 2013
New gTLD applicants have been waiting for ICANN to release data on what TLDs it feels are so similar as to induce a risk of Internet user confusion if allowed to proceed as stated.
These "contention sets" have now been published at last.
No surprise for those applicants seeking the same strings, such as the 13 applicants all vying for .APP that are now part of contention set number 12. These applicants obviously knew they would be in contention and the final results see 230 applicants involved in "exact match contention sets".
The real surprise is that in the end, there are only 2 "non-exact match contention sets", i.e. where the strings being applied for are not identical, but close enough that they would lead to user confusion.
The only 4 strings in these sets are Despegar Online's .hoteis versus Booking.com's .hotels and China United Network's .unicom and Unicorn a.s.' .unicorn.
Of those 4, only 2 can survive.
Overall, ICANN found 754 applications in contention.
Thursday, February 21. 2013
ICANN, new gTLD applicants and prospective new gTLD registrants or users can breathe a collective sigh of relief. Someone has stepped up at last and taken on the job of providing the Uniform Rapid Suspension (URS)!
The National Arbitration Forum, a veteran of the existing dispute resolution mechanism for domain names, the UDRP (Uniform Dispute Resolution Procedure), will be the first URS service provider.
The URS is one of two major RPMs (Right Protection Mechanisms) introduced specifically for new gTLDs. Sometimes dubbed "UDRP light", it is designed to allow rights owners to deal with infringements quickly and cheaply.
The financials of the URS have turned out to be the major sticking point, with ICANN setting a sub-$500 target price for the handling of a URS case. With most DRS 'Dispute Resolution Service) providers saying they could not match that price point, the URS looked to be in trouble.
It has now been saved by NAF, and this is good news for the new gTLD program in general as yet another box on ICANN's to-do list is ticked.
Friday, February 15. 2013
ICANN CEO Fadi Chehadé has set April 23rd, 2013 as the date the first of the new gTLDs will be able to move to the delegation phase. "We are now targeting to be able to recommend for delegation the first new gTLD as early as the 23rd of April," Chehadé said in a video interview recorded on February 13.
So new gTLDs will hit the Web in a couple of months? Not quite. Delegating a TLD means inserting it in the Internet root. In theory, when a TLD is delegated, it can be activated at any time. Domain names registered in that TLD should work and deliver website and email services as required. But in practice, a lot needs to happen between ICANN giving a TLD the go-ahead and that TLD going live on the Internet, including the not inconsequential matter of the TLD operator itself being ready to launch.
But what ICANN's announcement does mean is that the program is now being professionally project managed. In the interview, Chehadé confirmed that this is the first time ICANN has mentioned a specific date for its new gTLD program. "That's because of tremendous work that has taken place to align our operations, our legal and business frameworks, and all the input we need from the community so that we can start moving the whole program to start becoming a reality that serves the consumers."
To be in a position to set a date, Chehadé must have had confirmation that a large swath of ongoing work streams are either already complete, or close to getting there. To be approved for delegation, a new gTLD has to have had no objections raised against it, not be the target of any GAC (governmental) Advice, and not be in a string contention set (i.e. others have applied for the same string).
Obviously, some applications will not be objected to and not be in contention with others, so those two criteria do not feature as roadblocks for ICANN to be ready to recommend delegation of at least one TLD on April 23rd.
However ICANN has no control over the delivery of the GAC's official Advice on which applied-for TLDs it finds objectionable. There has been speculation that the GAC would not be ready to provide this advice anytime soon, thereby holding the whole program up. But ICANN's Governmental Advisory Committee silenced the doubters this morning with a short, sharp and to-the-point statement: "During the week of February 18th, 2013, the GAC will post its list of applications for consideration by the GAC as a whole in Beijing, in the context of developing GAC advice as outlined in the Applicant Guidebook (Module 3 section 3.1)."
So clearly, the pieces are falling together. Sensibly, ICANN's CEO was careful not to over commit to the 23rd of April, saying: "there are some things that we can't control that may cause this date to slip, but even in that case, we are looking for a slippage of days or weeks. Not months anymore."
So which new gTLD will lead the Internet revolution? That remains unknown at this point, but applications are being processed according to the priority number they drew in December so the first one through the gate should be an IDN, or non-Latin character, string.
See Chehadé's interview here.
Tuesday, February 5. 2013
During an ICANN seminar today, ICANN CEO Fadi Chehadé followed up his Amsterdam comments with a clear commitment to getting new gTLDs out on schedule… but not if that means putting the Domain Name System at risk.
"While we are doing everything we can to keep the new gTLD program on track and to keep our promise that by next year, we will have active new gTLDs in the root, I will not cut corners on the resiliency and the stability of the DNS," Chehadé said.
"And to those who would delay the program, I stress again how committed we are to our timeline. We will not change it, unless there are DNS stability reasons for doing so."
Tuesday, December 18. 2012
A few early technical hiccups with the system streaming it live did not prevent ICANN's prioritization draw from running smoothly yesterday, December 17, 2012.
All 1917 remaining applications (out of initial 1930 announced last June) were processed in one of the meeting rooms at the Los Angeles Airport Hilton, starting at 13:00 local time. Shortly before midnight, or more than 10 hours later, Google's Dot MBA was the last application to be pulled out of the box. Priority number 1917 was assigned to it (for more on the process used, read here).
Priority number 1 went to a Chinese script application for Dot Catholic.
The first standard Latin script application drawn was Amazon's bid for Dot Play (3 other applicants, including Google, are also in the running for this domain) which received priority number 109. The full list can be found here).
So what happens now? Getting a low priority number does not guarantee an applicant expeditious processing through ICANN's new gTLD evaluation and delegation process because several interim steps remain.
Formal objections. The new gTLD program allows for objections to be made against applied-for strings. The period for this ends on March 13, 2013.
Contention sets. Where the same string has been applied-for several times by different applicants, these go into a "contention set". There are several ways for these to be sorted out, but the end result has to be that only one applicant per string remains.
Initial evaluation. ICANN will release the results of its initial evaluation of new gTLD applications after the close of the objection period. Applications for IDN strings will be given priority.
80 new gTLDs a week
ICANN will begin contract negotiations with applicants that are free of any contention, technical or objection issues (the others will have to wait until those issues are resolved). If those applicants are willing to sign the ICANN new gTLD contract as-is, they will immediately proceed to the next steps. Contract negotiations are allowed, but will of course take more time.
All applicants with a contract agreement can then make an appointment to be "pre-delegation tested", where their readiness to operate a TLD will be examined. ICANN will do this at the rate of around 20 appointments a week, or 80 a month, and will use the prioritization draw order.
Once an applicant has passed, then ICANN will sign their new gTLD contract. This process will only begin after April 2013's Beijing ICANN meeting and once again, ICANN will process applicants at the same rate of around 80 to 85 gTLDs a month.
The importance of the draw
What this all means is that the first new gTLDs can expect to clear the ICANN approval process by the end of the second quarter of 2013.
What the system also highlights is the importance of yesterday's draw for applicants.
The first non-IDN application drawn yesterday that is not involved in a contention set was Dai Nippon Printing Co's Dot DNP at priority number 111. Taking the lower end of ICANN's expected processing rate of 80 applications a month, this means that the applicant with priority number 211, Sener Ingenieria y Sistemas' Dot SENER (also not requested by any other applicant) will be processed two months later by ICANN.
But looking a thousand places down the list, at priority number 1111 for the National Association of Real Estate Investment Trusts' Dot REIT (also uncontested), that will go through the ICANN process a full year later! Google's Dot MBA will only be processed 22.5 months after Dot DNP!
Whilst this may be a problem for some applicants who will end up going to market with their TLD several months after direct competitors get to launch theirs, it is the only way ICANN was able to stick with the limit of 1000 TLDs a year that the technical community has imposed on it as part of the new gTLD program.
Monday, December 17. 2012
The "prioritization draw", ICANN's answer to Blighty's favourite game of chance, is today!
By buying US100€ tickets, new gTLD applicants get the right to be entered into the draw. Their prize will be a "priority number" that will determine the order in which applications move through the remainder of ICANN's newgTLD validation process.
The draw became a necessary solution due to the number of applications received (as of prioritization draw night, there were 1917 applications still left in the running) and the shelving of earlier plans to handle applications in batches.
Each applicant can only purchase one ticket, and once they have going through the draw and been allotted their priority number, numbers cannot be exchanged, sold or otherwise traded.
ICANN has applied to the California Department of Justice for a license to conduct the draw, the concept of which has been widely met with satisfaction that it's a fair and equitable way of prioritizing close to 2000 new gTLD applications.
The draw itself starts at 19:00 UTC today (December 17).
Applicants did not have to buy a ticket for the draw, if they did not want to take part, but all will be prioritized anyway.
There are 4 draws. As it was determined that applications for IDN (non ASCII) TLDs should be handled first, the first draw is only for IDN applicants that have bought a ticket. The second is for non-IDN applicants with tickets.
Draw 3 and 4 are respectively for IDN and non-IDN applicants that did not buy tickets. ICANN may decide to hold these on another day if the first two prove too lengthy.
Wednesday, November 21. 2012
ICANN's Governmental Advisory Committee (GAC) has released a list of proposed new Internet suffixes with which individual governments have issue.
Dubbed "GAC Early Warnings", this mechanism is a way for GAC member countries to warn applicants under the new gTLD program that their requested string may be problematic.
Receiving an Early Warning is not a death sentence for an applicant. ICANN will leave it up to applicants themselves to decide what to do and whether to persevere undeterred or, instead, try to amend their application to placate governments.
Another mechanism, called GAC Advice, will allow the committee as a whole to ask the ICANN Board not to approve an application. This is expected next year, at the time of the first ICANN meeting of 2013 scheduled for April in Beijing, China.
Initial analysis of the list of GAC Early Warnings released yesterday shows that Australia has the most objections, and that governments in general are not comfortable with generic strings, which they appear to perceive as attempts at unwarranted land grab by commercial entities.
According to ARI, governments submitted more than 240 Early Warnings referencing 200 applications covering 162 strings. Most prolific were the Australians who submitted an incredible 129 warnings, followed by Germany (20) and France (19). Amongst applicants, Amazon who has applied for 76 new gTLDs received 27 warnings and Google (98 TLDs applied for) only received 6.
Each Early Warning comes with downloadable supporting documentation.
This includes a description and rationale for the warning being issued, possible steps an applicant might take to address the worries being expressed by the government issuing the warning, how the applicant should respond and to whom, and information on what an applicant should do if he wishes to withdraw as a result of the warning and claim a USD 148,000 refund on the USD 185,000 application fee.