ICANN’s 46th meeting took place on April 8-11 in Beijing, China, the largest ICANN meeting in terms of attendees ever.
The meeting kicked off with a welcome ceremony and speeches from Chinese delegates, ICANN CEO Fadi Chehadé, and ICANN Board Chair Dr. Stephen Crocker. ICANN’s CEO called Beijing “a vibrant city with vibrant people” and furthered ICANN’s commitment to expanding the organization by opening office hubs in Istanbul and Singapore to complement the office already located in Los Angeles, California. ICANN also has plans to open smaller community outreach centers in Asia, the Middle East, and Africa, with the first one opening in Beijing.
Among the Chinese delegates who spoke at the meeting, Madam Hu Qiheng from the Internet Society of China praised ICANN’s embrace of Asia and the 560 million Internet users in China. She called the meeting’s record attendance “a breakthrough for ICANN participation.”
New gTLD Directory Services
The first session was presented by the new gTLD Directory Services Expert Working Group, which is tasked with looking at redefining the purpose and use of new gTLD registration data, better known as WHOIS information. The group raised questions on whether there should be limits to the type of access certain individuals or organizations will have to gTLD registration data. One potential solution suggested would be to provide tiered access to registration data depending on who is trying to access the information (e.g., higher levels of access to information for law enforcement as opposed to the general public). This raised further questions regarding the right of the general public to view registration details so they are aware of who they might be doing business with online. There were also comments made regarding registration data privacy services and whether or not the fields that are collected today (registration, administrative, and technical contact fields) are needed.
The questions of registration data are worth watching for brand owners. Depending on the Working Group’s findings and recommendations, the ability to uncover the true owner of a domain could become easier or more difficult if the tiered access model is accepted. These types of decisions and their ramifications will require further discussion.
New gTLD Program Update
ICANN’s Vice President of gTLD Operations Christine Willett provided attendees with an update on the progress of the new gTLD program. As of this writing, 93 applications from the first 108 evaluated have been approved, 39 applications have been withdrawn, and 15 applications are having their results held back for various reasons. ICANN is focused on “consistency within the initial evaluation process.” All of the initial evaluation reports are available for review at the new gTLD microsite. The next steps after the initial evaluation will be:
- Governmental Advisory Committee (GAC) advice on applications (already submitted to ICANN)
- Contracting between new gTLD applicants and ICANN
- Pre-delegation testing before new gTLDs go live
Contracting between applicants and ICANN was set to begin on April 23, but that date has already been pushed back due to ongoing contract negotiations. Those applicants who decide to accept the base contract agreement will be given priority in delegation testing and those who want to negotiate terms could be delayed.
As of this writing there have been 220 objections to new gTLD applications submitted to the various dispute resolution providers. All applicants who received an objection would have been notified by the providers last week and given 30 days to respond. The issue of applications that may fall into “community priority” will be taken up in September of this year. Also, those applications that have been approved and are still in contention without a resolution to their conflict will be eligible for an auction run by ICANN starting this fall.
New gTLD Objections
String Confusion: 33
Legal Rights: 69
Limited Public Interest: 23
In addition to these topics, there was also a session on the Trademark Clearinghouse that mostly focused on the technical aspects of the service. Representatives from Deloitte said brand owners will be able to submit up to 50 abused variations of their trademarks, assuming they can provide proof of abuse through something like a UDRP decision, but are still awaiting the final requirements from ICANN on how this will be implemented. We will continue to provide updates on the Clearinghouse here on T+B.