Sunday, July 14 was Meeting Day “zero” at the 47th ICANN meeting in Durban, South Africa. While the official start of the meeting is today, there was already some significant news announced on Sunday, notably the signing of the first new gTLD contract with ICANN.
DotShabaka Registry, whose application to run .shabaka (شبكة. in Arabic or .web in English) drew a priority number of three in ICANN’s draw last December, signed their gTLD contract ahead of applicants with priority numbers one and two: the Vatican and its bid for .catholic in Chinese (天主教) and Amazon and its bid for .store in Japanese (ストア).
In a press release, Yasmin Omer, General Manager of dotShabaka Registry, said: “Today’s contract signing is a monumental occasion. As the first new TLD, شبكة. is set to become the centre of all things Arabic on the Internet.”
This contract signing may be the start of a slow but steady announcement cycle as other new gTLD applicants see it fit to follow suit. ICANN began inviting new gTLD applicants to the contracting phase on July 3, based on prioritization draw number. The applicants had to meet certain criteria to receive an invitation, such as having passed the initial evaluation phase (meaning they are not in extended evaluation), are not currently in a contention set, and did not have an unresolved objection against their application, among others.
Now that the first gTLD application has been signed, the tentative timeframe for launch of the first gTLD in the fall of 2013 seems a bit more realistic, although there are still wildcards at play that could delay any launches. Also, even though dotShabaka has signed its agreement, the company has up to one year to actually launch its registry.
Brand owners who are still undecided about registering their marks in the Trademark Clearinghouse (TMCH) need to begin paying close attention to the contract situation at ICANN if they have not started already. Launch dates for the new gTLDs that have signed contracts will be next, and brand owners need to ensure their marks are submitted to the TMCH with enough time to be fully validated and their sunrise keys received. This will also ensure that brand owners receive all notifications that might become available during the 90-day Claims notification window.
In other Sunday ICANN 47 news, the Governmental Advisory Committee (GAC) and the ICANN Board’s New gTLD Program Committee (NGPC) held a joint session to discuss issues that arose out of the GAC communiqué that was sent after the Beijing meeting in April. Specifically, the NGPC stated that more dialogue with the GAC was needed regarding the protection of Intergovernmental Organization (IGO) names. As of now there are safeguards in place for certain IGO names, but the question of what to do with IGO acronyms remains unresolved. Interestingly enough, while the GAC and NGPC are working through the IGO protection issues, the Generic Names Supporting Organization (GNSO) is also running a separate, but parallel, working group that is analyzing the issue as well. At some point, the work of these three groups will need to come together and submit a recommendation for the protection issue. Currently, there is no consensus between the three groups.