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...