Thursday, 27 October 2011

Evaluation Panelist Elected - Who Will Decide If Your Application is Qualified?

Yesterday ICANN released (page 19) the list of their elected Evaluation Panelists:

The "awards" go to:

String Similarity: InterConnect Communications (UK)
Seem to be experts in IT regulations, numbering and broadband technology, I hope they also have some cross-cultural and linguistic expertise, as they are to judge some of "our" German gTLD strings...the problem is, there is NO procedure or possibility to complain against their decisions. So if they think that - as an example - .BAYER (Pharma company)is (very probably)visually confusingly similar to .BAYERN (Region) there is no way you can complain against that (other than public comments, which evaluators are to look at but not bound to take into account) ...prepare for auction! Btw, most Germans would easily be able to differ between the two strings, they do so today (I.e. the Stadium of the Football Club in Leverkusen is called BAYER Arena, and mind you has very little wish to be associated with BAYERN Munich)
Anyways, it would be really nice, if Interconnect Comm and/or ICANN would give a few concrete examples (preferably in multiple scripts) on what is "visually" similar (i.e. singular vs. plural IDN (Ü) vs Latin (UE) and what is not...applicants for multiple TLDs risk ending in contention sets against themselves...!


DNS Stability: Interisle Communications


Who are they? Have tried to "google them" without any look, and have not found them on the list of respondents. Can anyone enlighten me?
Ah, maybe they are called: Interisle Consulting Group? ;-)
Chapin and Avri Doria are competent and trustworthy competences. I can tell from the WHOIS record of interisle.net (Registrant:Charles Wade4 Tiffany TrailHopkinton, MA 01748US) that they are based in the US (Their website does not seem to show that ;-) I hope they have the bandwidth to evaluate the registry services thoroughly.

Registry Services: Interisle Communications (US
again)

Geographic Names: Economist Intelligence Unit and InterConnect Communications (UK and UK again)

Financial / Tech / Ops

Ernst & Young (UK)
JAS Advisors (US)KPMG (CH)

Community Priority:
Economist Intelligence Unit
InterConnect Communications

These guys will be very busy, I can imagine a whole bundle of CPEs, it will be interesting to see how they will interprete the various community priority criteria.

Quality Control: JAS Advisors 

So it appears that the panelists are very anglo-saxon....too bad, especially in the string similarity review panel and in the geo name panel, it would have made sense with a bit more diversity...
We were told that the panelist would be handed out manuals on how to evaluate the applications. Sadly, these manuals are not likely to be published..

More Providers To Be Chosen
ICANN is still in the process of electing providers for the EBERO (Emergency Backen End Operator), The Trademark Clearing House (which has the potential to become a mean money machine), The Independent (who is?) Objector, and the URS. I miss an RFP or RFI for the Auction Provider...

New Important Dates and Timeline for New gTLD Program Released

Yesterday at the New gTLD Program Session at the current ICANN Meeting in Dakar, Senegal, ICANN released an updated timeline for the new gTLD Program (SEE page 15 and 16 here).

Important news are: The order of Application Evaluation will NOT be based on FCFS!

IF ICANN receives more than 500 applications the batching of applications into groups of 500 (or more) applications, which will be evaluated first, will NOT be based on a "first-come-first-served" basis. ICANN will define (not done yet) other metrics for the batching of applications.

In other words: You don't have to submit the entire application as soon as you have the chance upon the opening of the application window (January 12th). On the other hand, I donøt see how it could hurt to deliver as soon as possible...

Another news to me was the statement that you are entitled to edit your application right until April 12th, even after you have paid the application fee and submitted the application, should you decided to do that very early.

So what counts is: Get your access to the application system as soon as possible (wire 5,000 USD), no reason to risk anything there, and don't rush your application.

However, as an application is not simply answering 50 Questions, but actually describing and documenting your business model and policies for the lifetime of your TLD, applicants should already now begin the process of creating policies, budgets, as well as gathering and producing documents and preparing funds for their new gTLDs.

More important dates in 2012:

1 May Strings Posted Opens:

Application Comment Process
GAC Early Warning
GAC Advice Period
Objection Period

12 June
Initial Evaluation Begins

30 June
Application Comment Process Closes
GAC Early Warning Closes

12 November
Initial Evaluation Closes all Results are Posted



29 November
Last day to elect Extended Evaluation

1 December
Begins:
Extended Evaluation

Transition to Delegation (for Clean Applications)
String Contention (for Applications not in Dispute Resolution or Extended Evaluation)

GAC Advice Period Closes

Last Day to file an Objection

Notably, one can actually wait complaining against another application, until the particular application has passed the ("initial") evaluation. This may save money for objectors, who will not have to object against applications, who are not deemed qualified, and to defending applicants this means that they can now expect to risk a smaller refund, in case someone else successfully objects against their application, as these objections are now expected to be filed after and not during the initial evaluation...

It is comforting to know when the deadline for a GAC Advice is (Dec 1st, 2012)

Dates in 2013:

30 April
Extended Evaluation Closes
Dispute Resolution Closes
(Nice to have a deadline here as well, let us see if this is realistic...)
Results & Summaries Posted

15 May
String Contention Opens (for Applications with Variables)


30 May
String Contention Closes (for Clean Applications)
Results Posted


I did not quite catch, if String Contention Opens means this is the time frame for Auctions, and did not get either, what was referred to by "Clean Applications," ...winners maybe?

Can anyone answer that? I will try to ask during the Application Session later today.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

The FINAL (?) Applicant Guidebook is Out!

The (almost) Final Applicant Guidebook has been published.

Yesterday on September 19th, 2011 ICANN published the (Final) Applicant Guidebook.
Furthermore ICANN published a small website that gives guidance to potential applicants on how to apply and to potential objectors against applied for strings on how and when to object or comment on the new gTLD applications.

As you all know ICANN will allow for applications for new gTLDs from January 12, 2012 to April 12th, 2012.
Can we trust this time that it is actually the Final Applicant Guidebook?

I think so. At least in this new version ICANN has removed the section in the previous Applicant Guidebook
(May, 2011) stating:
Potential Applicants should be aware that this version of the Guidebook is for consideration and not yet approved.”

So it does appear to be the final version, albeit ICANN still have a few open spaces for amendments.
Most importantly the GAC may (will) provide guidelines on how they reach consensus on their GAC advice. (Module 3.1.)

Other “small” updates will be the naming of the external review panelists, the auction provider (and their rules), and in my view most critically, the final conditions and costs for filing an objection (string confusion objection, legal rights objections) or defending against an objection.
The prices suggested by the International Centre for Dispute Resolution (string confusion objection, currently set to 10k USD for one complaint as I can add it the numbers up – loser pays) and by WIPO for the legal rights objections (10k – 23k USD depending on number of panelists) are both listed as drafts!

Apart from these "minor" open issues, the Guidebook seems to be as completed as one could expect.

Are there any material changes in this Guidebook?

Three changes seem of importance:
1) The DEADLINE for acquiring a TAS slot/application ticket is set to MARCH 29th – deadline for submission of the application is still April 12th

2) The technical and financial questions (24-50) will be limited to a maximum number of pages (a page is defined as 4,000 characters) – typically 5,10, or 20 pages per answer.

3) A loser pays mechanism is installed (as agreed on the Singapore Meeting) for the URS dispute fee, in case the complainant lists 15 or more (previously 26) infringing domains registered to the same registrant.

In addition, on the new gTLD website we get to know a few more details on the application interface (TAS = TLD APPLICANT SYSTEM)

4) Each TAS USER can apply for a maximum of 50 gTLDs ! (It appears ICANN is indeed expecting more than 500 applications! )
5) ICANN will make a legal check on each TAS User (a so called OFAC check = Office of Foreign Assets Control= )before one is granted access to the system. So if you are doing business with or in North Korea or Syria or with any persons/nations listed on the US Department of the Treasury’s list of designated nationals or blocked persons ( I guess Lybia is OK now), maybe it is a good idea to have an external consultant (like me!) to be the TAS User for you… ;-)?

What has not been changed (which we had expected/hoped to be updated)?

1) There are no further exceptions granted for “single registrant TLDs” or dotBRAND registry operators. This means a brand owner – all be it with a closed single registrant policy – is not allowed to register any 2nd level domains in its own dotBRAND TLD that:

a. Consist of two characters (no DE.brand nor CN.brand)

b. Are country or territory names (no china.brand, no germany.brand, but you can have deutschland.brand.....as German is not one the 6 UN languages...or can you?).

Each registry operator thus will have to write to ICANN and the GAC (each member state, really) to ask for permission to register 2nd level domain names.

I hope we can talk to GAC / ICANN about an exception for single registrant TLDs at the next ICANN meeting in Dakar, as this restriction makes little sense in regards to closed dotBRAND registries, and are the GAC members really interested in handling say 1,000 dotBRAND requests for permission to register such 2nd level domains in their dotBRAND TLD?

2) A registry operator (applicant) for a closed single registrant TLD still has to offer a sunrise period (makes no sense) and an IP Claim service (makes a little bit sense), even though the brand owner itself will be the only possible registrant…An exception here would also make sense…(and was expected).

Lastly, please notice that the Registry Agreement is no longer part of the Applicant Guidebook but can be found on the newgTLDs.icann.org website (mistake?).

If you want to check for yourself: You can read the document highlighting the changes (no red-lined-version-this-time-so-far)

With 113 days to go - it is about time to make your decision: to dotBRAND or not to dotBRAND, especially as ICANN is still playing with the thought of implementing "an online ticketing system" in case they receive more than 500 applications and need to find a proces/criteria for how to select certain applications for the first batch and other applications for later batches...

So to play it safe, one has to be ready to submit the application pretty soon after January 12th, 2012...

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

1000-1500 applications

Verisign and Markmonitor expect 1,000-1,500 applications for new gTLDs in the first round next year, and that 2/3 of these are likely to be .brand applications.

ICANN has previously stated that it would only delegate 1,000 new gTLD per year. It's not clear what will happen if ICANN receives 1001 applications first round - first come first serve, lottery or what?

Monday, 27 June 2011

Interview with Jannik

Jannik was interviewed by China Intellectual Property Rights Protection Website (IPR in China) today. IPR in China is sponsored by Ministry of Commerce (MOFCOM) of the People's Republic of China.
You can read the interview here.

Friday, 24 June 2011

Jannik Skou in China IPR

China IPR is bringing an article about the concerns a brand-owner is facing in regards to the new gTLD program. You can read Jannik skou and Dr. Bettingers report here

Monday, 20 June 2011

New TLD's approved

The new TLD program has just been approved by ICANN board. The first application window will open January 12, 2012 and end on April 12, 2012. Initial evaluation will be published in November 2012.

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

ICANN seems to stick to Timeline for new gTLDs - DAG 6 published

On April 15th, ICANN published the New Applicant Guidebook Discussion Draft or plain and simply; “DAG 6.“ In addition ICANN responded on GAC input on RPMs and other points of concerns related to the launch of new gTLDs. Meeting their proposed deadline with their April 15th launch of responses and rationale to GAC and of the DAG 6, ICANN seems committed to – at long last – stick to the communicated timeline;

  • April 15th through May 15th
  • New DAG 6 public comments period
  • May 20th Consultation with GAC
  • May 30th Final Applicant Guidebook
  • June 20th Board Approval
  • Followed by a global 4 months awareness campaign before the expected opening of the 60 days application window late October early November

What is new, what has been changed in the DAG? RPM (Right Protection Mechanisms) issues: New gTLDs must offer both the centralized Trademark Clearing House (TCH) service (for all word marks) and a Pre-launch Sunrise registration period for rights holders, who can demonstrate proof of use of their trademark registered before June 26, 2008. It is a good idea for TM owners to submit proof of use to the central Trademark Clearing House as well, as this will make potential domain disputes via the new URS (faster and cheaper UDRP) easier, as one can refer to the demonstrated rights in the central Trademark Clearing House.

Now what kind of protection / service is the Trademark Clearing House (TCH) providing? Firstly, a TM owner saves costs related to registering second level domain names in numerous new gTLDs, as registries can (must) now draw upon TM validation services from the central TCH. Thus, at least administrative costs will be lower, than if one had to file TM certificates to each individual registry. (How Sunrise fees will be priced is still up to each registry..). Secondly, the TM owner with a TM filed in the TCH will receive an alert message from the registrar (via the TCH), if a registrant has registered an IDENTICAL domain name (with or without “hyphen”, “&”, “spaces “ etc. The ICANN board did not follow GAC advice and implemented the alert / protection against “combo-names” – including, pre- and suffixes, or typos for that matter, so only IDENTICAL matches, as we know it from the .EU and .ASIA sunrise validation). Furthermore, any registrant that seeks to register a domain name IDENTICAL to a TM in the TCH will have to read and accept a “warning” before registering the domain name;

DAG 6 page 309: “(…)You have received this Trademark Notice because you have applied for a domain name which matches at least one trademark record submitted to the Trademark Clearinghouse. You may or may not be entitled to register the domain name depending on your intended use and whether it is the same or significantly overlaps with the trademarks listed below. Your rights to register this domain name may or may not be protected as noncommercial use or “fair use” by the laws of your country.” (…) “If you continue with this registration, you represent that, you have received and you understand this notice and to the best of your knowledge, your registration and use of the requested domain name will not infringe on the trademark rights listed below(..).”

Let us see what chilling effect such a warning will have on registrants ;-)

URS; The Uniform Rapid Suspension System in DAG 6 has implemented a “loser pays” fee in case the same registrant has registered more than 25 infringing domains. (Max “penalty” is the cost of the complaint)

GAC “Veto;” For Brand Owners it is comforting that GAC (Government representatives) has now been granted a de facto veto right against TLD applications. GAC will be able to object to (read: block) new gTLD applications through both an “early warning” (requires only one GAC member nation to “warn”) to be submitted right after the formality check (2 weeks after the closing of the application window) and a so called “GAC Advice”, based on consensus, which the board is “almost” forced to follow.

DAG 6 page 14; “GAC advice that is stated to be a “GAC consensus” position and that states, this application should not proceed, will create a strong presumption for the Board that the application should not be approved. If the Board decides to approve the application, the Governmental Advisory Committee and the ICANN Board will then try, in good faith and in a timely and efficient manner, to find a mutually acceptable solution.” Thus, GAC will be able to prevent such sensitive and controversial TLDs as .kids, pharma, .bank to be controlled by any controversial registry operator. GAC will hardly warn or advice against any .brand applications.

Increased and explicit requirements for documentation of registry systems and security; DAG 6 has been extended to include a very detailed list of documentation requirements (93-200 pages of documentation required) for the registry systems (servers, security, monitoring, back up, WHOIS accuracy measurements etc.) This may give some of the new gTLD registry backend providers a “hot summer” and make IT consultants happy. Seriously, it is really welcomed that ICANN is making it very transparent what is required to run a registry in a safe manner, albeit a puzzle to me, why these amendments occur at the very end of this long process.

When will we see Round 2 of new gTLDs? So far ICANN has communicated its plan to launch additional rounds of 500 new gTLDs (or is it 1000 applications?) every 12 months! I very much doubt that ICANN will be able to stick to this deadline: In order to enable future economic studies assessing whether the new gTLD delivered the expected benefits, as part of the application process, ICANN is now gathering additional information from applicants, who have to indicate how their new gTLD will be benefit “registrants, Internet users, and others.” Applicants have to answer a number of questions (page 104 and onwards in DAG 6) relating to benefit creation for registrants and users and to eliminating costs to registrants and consumers.

One question is (DAG 6 redlined, page 105): ICANN wants to know: “(…)d. What goals does your proposed gTLD have in terms of user experience?”

Answer (?): “Well, that is easier for users to find what they are looking for on the Internet, you know”

Somehow economists will have to measure to what degree these first round (ICANN guesses on 500 new gTLDs, I personally expect more) new gTLDs did actually deliver on these benefit promises. More importantly is ICANN's intent to analyze the impact of the launch and operation of say 500 new gTLDs on the stability of root zone system:

DAG 6 redlined, page 24: “ICANN has committed to reviewing the effects of the New gTLD Program on the operations of the root zone system after the first application round, and will defer the delegations in a second application round until it is determined that the delegations resulting from the first round did not jeopardize root zone system security or stability’ And page 36:"(…) Modeling will continue during, and after, the first application round so that root-scaling discussions can continue and the delegation rates can be managed as the program goes forward."

The board simply will not start round 2 before:

(…)The Board commits to make the second round or batch of applications contingent on a clean sheet from full technical and administrative assessment of impact of the first round with recommendations which should go out to public comment for approval.”

To me, further economic studies and root zone stability studies AND further public comments do NOT sound like we will see a round 2 only 12 months after round 1. More likely round 2 will not happen within two or three years after the opening – yet –launch of round 1 – nTLDs. (If I say so, it maybe WILL happen, as my track record for predicting ICANN timelines is not too impressive…)

Conclusion: ICANN will launch the new gTLD program and this time I really do believe they will stick to the timeline. Brand owners with international brands should therefore asap analyze and conclude whether a dotBRAND application is the safest way to protect your IPR and/or a smart way to support your branding strategy. Applications are to be submitted at the end of this year…or will we see yet another postponement?

Monday, 21 March 2011

New TIMELINE - new gTLD Program to be approved by ICANN Board on 20 June

At last week´s ICANN Meeting in San Francisco, the ICANN Board made public that they are now striving at approving the new gTLD program at a dedicated Board Meeting to be held on June 20 at the next Singapore ICANN Meeting.

See the new timeline here.

If everything goes according to Board Plans the last open issues will be tackled following this scheme:

March 25th: Feed back on GAC/ICANN Board consultations by the GAC
April 15th: Board´s publication on changes and new language to the Applican Guidebook based on GAC input/negotiations - open for public comment until May 15th
May 20th: GAC/ICANN Board teleconference on the "GAC Scorecard"
May 30th: Publication of the "Final Guidebook"
June 20th: Board Approval of the new gTLD program

So assuming ICANN will stick to this timeline, we can expect the application window for new gTLDs to open on October 20th, 2011 (after 4 months ICANN "awareness campaign").

To brand owners this means they should start budgetting for dotBrand investments already this fiscal year.

What makes me think that the Board will manage to finalize the policy work for new gTLD programs and in particular to reach agreements with GAC on open issues - or - at least to reach a consensus within the Board on how to explain the rationale behind NOT meeting all GAC requirements (i.e. an extension of variant of Brand names in the URS) - this time?

Well, the fact that the Board did finally make a decision on the controversial topic of .xxx (it was approved by the board with a small majority vote and a number of non voting board members including CEO Rod Beckstrom, who will later publish a written rationale for not voting on the .xxx matter - poor leadership in my view not to vote. He should at least had explained why he abstained from voting...looking forward to seeing his rationale behind that one.), and the fact that in my view there were a much better atmosphere at the GAC / ICANN Board consultations, and the fact that one could easily interpret Bill Clinton´s and other ICANN "founders" speeches as "pro-new-gTLDs" indicate to me that this time - the timeline is trustworthy. I do not think the ICANN Board would risk to publish a new timeline, if they were not convinced they could stick to it this time. Furthermore, the fact that the Chair of Board Peter Dengate Trush after 10 years of duty will leave ICANN following the Singapore meeting in June, makes me assume that he and other board members would do anything (almost however controversial) to approve the new gTLD program while Peter is still in office. There is a hell of a lot difference between having been the chair of an organization that wound in endless negotiations, bureaucratic processes, and lack of reliability, to having been the chair of ICANN when the liberalization of new gTLDs in Latin and non Latin script, extended the structure of the namespace and opened the Internet to new players in all parts of the world.

Hence, I would be extremely surprised, if we do not see the ICANN Board approving the Final Guide Book on June 20, and consequently the application window to open late October 2011.




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Thursday, 3 March 2011

New Timeline for new gTLDs again?

After the last two days of ICANN Board/ GAC (Governmental Advisory Committee) face to face meeting in Bruxelles (read transcripts from the last day here ) we need to update the ICANN timeline for the launch of new gTLDs once again.

It was assumed that the ICANN board were planning to approve (resolve) the applicant guide book / the launch of the new gTLD program at the ICANN meeting in SFO in two weeks, and consequently launch the Final Applicant Guidebook mid April 2011, which would lead to an opening of the application window around September 2011.

After two days of intense consultations, where the ICANN board listened to, discussed and finally commented on GAC´s scorecard of 12 issues related to the new gTLD program they still find unsolved. The issue creating most disagreements no doubt is the issue of

Protection of Right Owners (Trademarks and other rights)

Whereas ICANN had expressed that the issue of protection of right holders were resolved and implemented and thereby finalized in the "Proposed Final Version of the Applicant Guidebook (published Nov 12, 2010), amongst several suggestions for improvements GAC still wants ICANN to implement a faster suspension system than what is currently the case for the URS as described in the current Applicant Guidebook version, and GAC wants to include not only "exact" matches of TMs but also add industry/goods/geographical descriptions ("combo-names"such as "KodakOnlineshop." In addition GAC is also requiring a notification service for the IP Claim service in the Trademark Clearinghouse for both exact matches and "combo-names" as previously requested by the IRT.

Other suggestions by GAC relate to increased consumer protection (i.e. implement control mechanisms on who can run .bank, or .dentist - which to me makes sense) and to implement clarifications on application and dispute guidelines for Geographical TLDs (clafiry, or let the local authorities decide, which authority (city or region) can support a geoTLD application, and what happens if a brand name is sharing their name with a city/region?)

As much as the ICANN board is willing to meet the GAC requirements (on most issues not related to Rights Owner Protections) there still remains a number of issues where the two parties have not yet made an agreement, and certainly all 12 issues as listed by the GAC would need to be implemented and agreed upon as final language in the AGB.

In other words....

The launch of the new gTLD program will be postponed once more. (For a good illustrations check TLDwatch.com)

What is realistic to expect now? Application November/December 2011? Launch Q3/Q4 2o12?

Well, I actually believe that the next two weeks and the consultations and meetings in San Francisco will lead to agreements on most of the issues discussed in the over all constructive athmosphere at the ICANN/GAC meeting in Bruxelles. Eventually, the few open issues will have to be negotiated at some point (I.e. whether "combonames" are included in the URS proceedings and IP Claim Notifications etc..) and at the end of the day, I actually believe that GAC will accept most of ICANN´s suggestions for the URS and Trademark Clearinghouse, as long as GAC is not only listened to, but also responded to and given some changes to the AGB. So, I would not be surprised if all the changes to the AGB would be negotiated and formulated prior to the ICANN meeting in Singapore in June and the final Applicant Guidebook then published shortly after. Adding the 4 months global awareness campaign the application window might open at the end of 2011...it will require a constructive, focused and open-minded effort from ICANN staff, board and GAC members.

Clearly, and somewhat understably, ICANN is eager to get the program launched.They will, however, have to be patient and carefully address and solve the last remaining issues to get there, as much as I understand their frustrations.

To me - albeit this should have been addressed long ago in the policy and AGB process - it does make sense to implement control mechanism to assure that gTLDs such as .bank, .insurance, .pharma are operated or at least controlled by relevant industry bodies, as does it make sense to me, to make sure that city/region TLDs are supported by proper authorities.

I certainly look forward to an interesting ICANN Meeting, and not least to hopefully getting more answers to all our questions related to the AGB...such as;

"Why do you have to pay the same application fee (185k USD) for each translation/variant of your string (brand), if the applicant, technical backbone, financial solidity, operational capacity are identical for each and the registration policies are intertwined?" -

"Will ICANN (external panelist) accept that brands apply for community based TLDs defining their brand as a community?"

"Will "ö" be interpreted as a "Variant" or "Translation" of "oe"? or of "o "?

But first of all: When can we expect ICANN to launch the new gTLD program, so that our clients can budget for dotBrand?