Hogan Lovells partner and domain name specialist David Taylor explores the likely impact of the introduction of a raft of new high-level internet domain namesThis year will probably be remembered as a landmark one in the history of the internet as the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) launched an application window of 90 days from 12 January during which any entity may apply for a top-level domain name. You might not be aware of this, but it’s a significant development for us all. We are looking at an unprecedented shake-up and expansion of the internet’s addressing system. The rationale is that there is a shortage of internet addresses, or domain names, so in a little over a year from now, we will start seeing new versions such as .paris, .london, .berlin, .music, .hotel, .gay and .blog.While the aim is to enhance diversity, choice, competition and innovation, it has important ramifications for law enforcement and consumers as it may well create a multitude of new opportunities for scammers. It will inevitably also cause a considerable burden on business and brand owners across the UK and further afield. As such it will require a significant shift in the strategies of protecting brands on the internet. It will likely mean that any business with a presence on the internet – getting on to be pretty much every brand – will need to increase its budget in order to continue to protect their brand.If a company has only a single brand then the cost may not be significant. However, if there are 1,000 new domain names and a company seeks to defensively register its one brand in half of those, at between £100 and £200 per registration, that is between £50,000 and £100,000. And that would not include potential costs spent in disputes against cybersquatters. Large corporations could find themselves with figures far in excess of that. Fox Entertainment Group estimated additional costs of $12m at a United States Congressional Hearing in May 2010. It is debatable whether this is an excessive estimate or not, but the fact remains that large companies will need to assign significant resources and money to something that arguably has no positive purpose for them. Many have claimed that it is akin to extortion; the concern for others is the fact that such increased costs may ultimately be passed on to consumers.ICANN’s expansion process has involved considerable debate among global stakeholders from the business community, governments, civil society, registrars and registries largely via eight versions of the so-called applicant guidebook, each one subject to comments from anyone as part of a multi-stakeholder process. Over the course of the last three years in particular, brand owners and representative associations have sought substantial rights protection mechanisms to be included commencing with the creation of a special Implementation Recommendation Team (IRT) by ICANN in March 2009 to propose and develop solutions to the issue of trademark protection in the upcoming domain names.Despite the specific rights protection mechanisms put in place, at the end of last year we saw certain parties unhappy with the outcome of this multistakeholder process seeking to bypass ICANN by taking unilateral action via the US Government in an attempt to delay or even derail the process. This has been unsuccessful to date and most brand owners are now seeking to deal with the problem.Having looked at the threats to business and brand owners, one has to acknowledge that the process clearly does provide opportunities for innovation. Potential benefits to the internet include opening the field to users across the globe that hitherto have not been properly served via the ability to create domain names in non-Latin, non-English characters, for instance. Indeed, some brand owners are seizing the opportunity itself and we will be seeing brands applying for new domain names themselves. Many are in the offing, and while most keep such plans highly confidential, some have come out and announced their plans, including Canon, Hitachi and Unicef.So it is not all doom and gloom. But before you think of rushing out to secure one for yourself, do bear in mind that the application fee alone is $185,000.This article was reproduced with permission of the author, David Taylor, Partner at Hogan Lovells International LLP.
New gTLD Registrars and Registries will Compete for the Benefit of ConsumersICANN’s Board of Directors voted to allow new gTLD registries to own registrars, opting not to create new rules prohibiting registrars from applying for or operating new gTLD registries.Following over two years of community discussions, which had not resulted in consensus, the Board carefully considered expert economic advice, community comments, and numerous proposed approaches to registry-registrar cross-ownership.”In the absence of existing policy or new bottom-up policy recommendations, the Board saw no rationale for placing restrictions on cross-ownership;” said Peter Dengate Thrush, Chairman of the Board. “Any possible abuses can be better addressed by properly targeted mechanisms. Co-ownership rules are not an optimal technique in this area.”Under the Board resolution additional enforcement mechanisms have been added. New gTLD registry agreements are to include: (1) a Code of Conduct prohibiting any misuse of data or other abusive conduct arising out of registry-registrar cross-ownership; (2) robust auditing requirements; (3) graduated sanctions up to and including contractual termination and punitive damages; and (4) ICANN’s right to refer competition issues to appropriate government competition authorities.Background: The cross-ownership provisions have varied over time and no formal “policy” on this topic has ever been recommended or adopted by ICANN. (For example, each of the seven new gTLDs delegated by ICANN in the 2000-2001 proof-of-concept introduced by ICANN in 2000 have featured some degree of registry-registrar cross-operation or cross-ownership.)The ICANN community has been discussing whether to continue, expand or remove the restrictions in current registry agreements that limit the existing registries from owning more than 15% of a registrar. Some have urged the creation of new rules that would for the first time prohibit registrars from applying for or operating new gTLDs.The ICANN Board had previously attempted to spur a consensus view, asking ICANN’s GNSO to resolve the registry-registrar cross-ownership question. In May 2010, the ICANN Board encouraged the GNSO to develop a consensus based policy on this issue, but indicated that the Board would review the issue if no consensus position was reached. The GNSO recently reported that it has been unable to reach consensus.###To read the resolutions passed by ICANN Board, go here: icann.org/en/minutes/resolutions-05nov10-en.htmTo learn more about gTLDs, go here: icann.org/en/topics/new-gtld-program.htmThis ICANN announcement was sourced from:
The joint ccNSO and GNSO IDN working group (JIG) is pleased to announce the publication of the working group’s Initial Report [PDF, 192 KB] on the introduction of Single Character IDN TLDs. This Report is intended to be a stocktaking of the policy issues regarding the introduction of Single Character IDN TLDs and some viewpoints on possible policy implementations that could address those issues. The JIG solicits input and comment from the community on these policy issues and viewpoints. The working group identifies the following policy issue area’s:
- Possible confusion with reserved single character ASCII TLD strings
- Whether special financial considerations should be considered
- Whether due to the relatively smaller pool of possible names that special allocation methods should be considered
- Whether due to the relatively shorter string, it may be easier for users to make mistakes, and that special policies should be considered
- Whether additional criteria should be introduced to qualify a Single Character IDN TLD as an IDN ccTLD or IDN gTLD
- Whether special policies are required to address usability of Single Character IDN TLDs given existing application environments
To be most helpful you are kindly requested to submit your comments by 9 September 2010 at: http://www.icann.org/en/public-comment/public-comment-201009-en.htm#jig-initial-report
An archive of all comments received will be publicly available.
Background and Next Steps
The ccNSO and GNSO Councils recognized there may be topics and/ or issues related to the introduction of IDN TLDs which are of common interest to both the GNSO and ccNSO, and which are preferably addressed in a collaborative effort through the GNSO and ccNSO. For that matter the Councils established a joint IDN working group. The charter of the working group can be found at: http://ccnso.icann.org/workinggroups/jiwg.htm.
According to its charter the purpose of the joint working group is to identify and explore issues and topics of common interest, if any, and of relevance to both the cNSO and GNSO, report on such an identified issues to the ccNSO and GNSO Councils and propose a methodology to address the issue. To date the JIG identified the following areas of common interest:
- Single Character IDN TLDs
- IDN TLD Variants
- Universal Acceptance of IDN TLDs
After closure of the comment period, the working group will finalise the Initial Report taking into account the public comments and input and publish a Final Report to be submitted to the ccNSO and GNSO Councils for their consideration. During the public comment period the Working Group will continue its work on the other topics identified by the working group as of common interest to both the ccNSO and GNSO.
This ICANN announcement was sourced from: