New Schedule for gTLDs

Last week, brand rights holders and organizations that represent them met with ICANN officials in Washington DC to discuss a host of policy and compliance issues including the status of the rollout of IDNs and the introduction of new Global Top-Level Domains (gTLDs). In these meetings ICANN staff updated the timeline for new Global Top-Level Domains (gTLD) and revealed additional information about their iterative process. Specifically, ICANN stated that in advance of the planned Mexico City Meeting starting March 1, they expect to make available a revised version of the Draft Applicant Guidebook (DAG) and other supporting material including a detailed analysis of submitted comments and an economic study of the gTLD proposal.

Senior ICANN staff generally characterized the comments which they received (some of which will be addressed in the DAG) as: 1) clarifications, 2) issues about policy as described, 3) brand rights holder and other issues, and, lastly, 4) technical issues. ICANN indicated that the bulk of the comments were both thoughtful and substantive. However, it should be noted that the next version of the DAG, while addressing many of the issues brought forth by a wide variety of commentators and comments, is not expected to specifically address brand rights holder issues.

Assuming the iterative process continues at its current pace with a third release of the DAG expected sometime before the June ICANN meeting in Sydney, we will likely not see applications taken for new gTLDs until the end of this year, at the earliest. It should be noted that there was some discussion of accelerating the release of International Domain Names (IDNs) which will allow local language characters to be integrated into domain names at the first- and second-level which will have implications for brand rights holders who wish to do business in the locales where these names will be supported.

In addition, brand rights holders and organizations that represent them were able to present specific data in these sessions to ICANN officials about the impact of domain name system abuse to both consumers and the rights holders themselves. The information which was presented by a number of major corporations and national associations underscored that the scale and substance of domain name system abuse presents inherent risks to (i) the stability and security of the Internet, (ii) the trust, health and safety of users, and, (iii) the finances and good standing of the world’s most valued brands. MarkMonitor supported this information with specific data gleaned from our Brandjacking Index which underscored both the size and severity of abuse and the threats posed.

Potential solutions to brand rights holder issues which may arise with the introduction of the new gTLDs as well as the challenges for implementation of those solutions were explored frankly by all parties during these sessions. Proposals in commentary and as well as public discussions include reserved names lists that acknowledge internationally known and rights-reserved names, fair systems for resolving conflicts over those names at the first and second levels, universal methods for managing sunrise periods, and, even enforcing greater compliance for existing contractual obligations by registries, registrars and registrants.

As with the previous version of the DAG, MarkMonitor will prepare a detailed analysis of the draft and will accept our customers’ signatures upon those comment based on the analysis. MarkMonitor will also be happy to consult with any of our customers who wish to submit their comments independently. MarkMonitor, our customers and other brand rights holders, will continue to assert their rights through this process. We are encouraged that the voice of brand holders’ rights is being heard both by ICANN and the community of which it is composed, and look forward to realizing stronger protection in the domain naming system for all parties involved.