Verisign has received the green light from the U.S. Department of Justice to auction the domain name o.com after ICANN referred the proposal to the department “of a potential competition issue.”
Verisign is required under its registry agreement to notify ICANN “of any proposed new registry services, which ICANN must review for, among other things, potential competition issues that might arise if the proposed service is offered.” The new registry service was the auction of o.com with proceeds going to charity and Verisign only receiving the standard annual registration fee, currently $7.85 per year.
The competition issues arise “given that Verisign is required by the U.S. Government to include a price cap in the Registry Agreement with ICANN” which are required by the U.S. government with the .com Registry Agreement.
In the Department of Justice’s short response [pdf] they in part note that “after careful consideration of the matter, the [Antitrust] Division can report that it does not intend to open an investigation into the proposed auction described in the attachment to your letter.”
And as Domain Incite notes, the approval would set a precedent for Verisign “to sell off the remaining 22 single-letter domains, not to mention the 10 digits, which are all currently reserved due to a decades-old technical policy no longer considered necessary.”
DI also notes “the big question now is whether anyone other than Overstock will want to take part in the auction. Overstock has US trademarks on 'O.com', despite the fact that it’s never actually owned the domain.”