ICANN Opens New Public Comment Periods, Closes Window on Strawman Comments

by Robert Kriner on February 11, 2013

Last week, ICANN opened two new public comment periods related to the releases of new generic top level domains. The first deals with new gTLD registry agreements (the contracts between new gTLD applicants and ICANN) and the second looks for some clarification on the issue of “closed generic” gTLDs.

New gTLD Registry Agreements
The new version of the Registry Agreement will replace the last version, which was included in the latest version of the Applicant Guidebook posted in June 2012. Since then, recent developments emerged that require updates to the agreement. This new version will include a Public Interest Commitments Specification section. This section will require new gTLD operators to utilize only those registrars who have signed on to the 2013 Registrar Accreditation Agreement, which is currently being negotiated. It will also aim to make certain statements made in a new gTLD application contractually binding. For example, many applicants included business plans and statements of intent in their new gTLD applications, such as providing rights protection mechanisms that go above and beyond those required by ICANN. The Public Interest Commitments Specification section will make these intents part of the new gTLD applicant’s ICANN contract, ensuring they follow through with their plans. The window to submit comments on this updated version of the agreement is open until March 20, 2013.

Closed Generic TLDs Issue
The issue of closed generic TLDs is one that has been brought up time and time again by many stakeholders in the ICANN community, including the Governmental Advisory Committee through its Early Warning Program. The debate boils down to whether or not having a generic TLD, such as .trademark, closed off from public registration, is really benefiting the broader Internet community. Concerns have also been raised regarding some of the proposed uses of these closed TLDs, including anti-competitive impacts. In response, the ICANN board asked the New gTLD Program Committee to review the issue. This public comment period was the first part of the committee’s solution to the board. During this time, they hope that comments will address two main points:

  1. Classifying certain applications as “closed generic” TLDs, i.e., how to determine whether a string is generic.
  2. Determining the circumstances under which a particular TLD operator should be permitted to adopt “open” or “closed” registration policies.

At the same time, ICANN’s Generic Names Supporting Organization (GNSO) can review the issue and provide its own recommendations to the board if desired. The window to submit comments on this issue is open until March 7, 2013.

Comment Window on the Trademark Clearinghouse Strawman Proposal Ends
Coca Cola, Chrysler, Time Warner, the International Trademark Association, and even the U.S. Postal Service (through its outside law firm) all took the opportunity to submit their views on the Trademark Clearinghouse Strawman Proposal during the open comment period (see our December post for the proposal specifics). Brand owners are hoping that ICANN will agree to implement most of the proposal, but many are also asking for further protection through Limited Preventive Registration (LPR) measures. The LPR would act much like the blocking mechanism that was put in place for the .XXX Sunrise launch in 2011, which allowed trademark owners to pay a flat rate to have their marks blocked at the second level of all new gTLDs. You can take a look at the comments that were submitted here.

With all of these comment periods related to the new gTLD program opening or just about to close, do you believe there will be further delays to the program this year?

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