US Lawmakers Want Assurance New gTLDs Will Protect Trademarks And Not Break Internet

Key members of the US Congress are still raising concerns about ICANN’s plan to new gTLDs, writing to the organisation outlining concerns that any new strings introduced will not harm trademark holders and requesting assurance the public will have adequate opportunity to comment.In a letter to ICANN, that follows an earlier one in December 2011, said that since the earlier letter, “brand-owners, consumers, and members of the law enforcement community have continued to voice concerns about the adequacy of ICANN’ s proposed steps to protect against increased risks of cyber-squatting, fraud, and abuse in the new gTLDs.”The letter from the chairman and ranking member of both the Senate and House judiciary committees [PDF] asks ICANN to provide them “with further details about the steps ICANN is taking to fulfil its commitment to ensure that the New gTLD process will provide ‘a secure, stable marketplace’ with input from ‘the community as a whole.'”Responding to the earlier letter, “ICANN emphasised that the New gTLD programme ‘includes robust processes to assure that the community as a whole – with particular opportunities for governments and rights holders – has the opportunity to raise objections that could lead to the rejection of applications,’ including because of user confusion, infringement of legal rights, and misappropriation of community names or labels.”But the lawmakers are unconvinced saying that “despite this assurance, many members of the public outside the ICANN community are unaware that the New gTLD programme is underway. Of those who are aware, few know about the public comment process or comprehend that their opportunity to participate in this forum is scheduled to end in less than a week.”The committee members ask ICANN to answer the following three questions:

  • what steps has ICANN taken to inform members of the public outside the ICANN community about the New gTLD public comment process
  • what steps is the Independent Objector taking to encourage and maximise public input and what role will the Independent Objector play in articulating and representing public concerns about specific gTLD applications
  • will ICANN keep open the New gTLD public comment forum to enable comments from the broader public and allow the Independent Objector to receive their views?

The letter reiterates their concerns regarding inadequate protections for trademark holders, including that the Trademark Clearinghouse will only allow complaints from trademark holders for 60 days. And asks is there any reason not to extend this period. Other concerns here are when will the review occur for the Clearinghouse policies and concerns of high registration fees in new gTLDs for trademark holders protecting their brands.