ICANN 41 Report: ICANN Votes to Expand TLD Space

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It has been over a week since ICANN 41 kicked off in Singapore and the ICANN Board approved the New gTLD program. Of course, the big news is the approval of the New gTLD program, so we’ll start there.

Just before Monday’s approval of the New gTLD program, the ICANN Board and the Governmental Advisory Committee had a chance for one last meeting to discuss open issues regarding the program. The meeting focused on GACs comments on the current version of the Applicant Guidebook, which were submitted on May 27th, and a letter, which was sent to the board a day prior to the meeting.

The GAC cited the following as major issues which they felt required resolution before the launch of the New gTLD application process.

  • Competition concerns (registry-registrar cross-ownership rules)
  • Demonstration of use requirement for trademark holders whishing to take part in various trademark protection mechanisms.
  • Removal of references in the guidebook dictating the format and contend of the GAC early warning mechanism and advice.

The GAC had additional concerns over the lack of support to applicants in developing countries, and protections on Olympic related and Red Cross related names/terms.

Competition Concerns

The board assured the GAC that competition issues are taken very seriously, and letters that were received from two competition authorities had been reviewed internally and by outside council. The board is working on a process for existing registries to transition into the vertically integrated model and is open to assistance from the GAC and competition authorities to ensure the process is optimal. New gTLD registries will be able to be vertically integrated from launch date but ICANN will maintain a close watch on registries to ensure they adhere to strict competition standards.

Trademark Proof of Use Requirement

All trademarks, regardless of proof use, will be included in the TM clearinghouse, however, in order to participate in a Sunrise claims period, the mark holder must satisfy the proof of use concept because it is a premier right.

Regarding the remaining issues, the Board agreed to edit the guidebook as to not require any certain format for GAC advice or early warning. Discussions on assistance for applicants from developing countries will continue as there is a working group still trying to develop a process.

As for blocking terms such as Olympic or Red Cross at the second-level, the board believes it is not necessary. However, suggests that the board place a moratorium on registration of these terms at the top level.

Special Meeting of the ICANN Board

On Monday, June 20th the board passed the resolution to approve the New gTLD program by a vote of 13 to 1 with 2 abstentions. The board proposes the following timeline:

As noted in the graphic above:

  • The Guidebook is approved (as of June 20, 2011)
  • The communications campaign begins immediately (June 20, 2011)
  • Application Period Opens (January 12, 2012)
  • Application Period Closes (April 12, 2012)
  • Applications Made Public (April 27, 2012)
  • Evaluation Results Published (November 2012)
  • Delegation of First New gTLDs (January 2013)

Still, some work on the Applicant Guidebook a reconciliation of differences between the GAC and ICANN remains necessary:

  • Burdens of proof in for the URS (Uniform Rapid Suspension) and PDDPR (Post Delegation Dispute Procedure)
  • URS loser pays model: lowering threshold from 26 to 15
  • Language development for GAC advice/early warning
  • Government objection process
  • Operating practices for community TLDs

Video of the ICANN Board’s vote to approve New gTLDs