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February 17
ICANN 52: The Internet at a Crossroads

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Earlier this month the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) held its 52nd public meeting in Singapore. Escaping this bustling Asian city’s balmy February temperatures and stifling humidity, representatives from all stakeholder groups convened inside the Raffles City Convention Centre in the heart of Singapore to engage in game-changing discussions on Internet policy. With trademark concerns filtering into many of the key issues facing ICANN, INTA members were once again on hand to represent the views of the Association and the global trademark community.

A key issue of debate at ICANN 52 was the issue of country and territory names both as top level domains (TLDs) and as second level domains (SLDs). On the topic of SLDs, initial policy called for any country or territory name at the second level to be placed on a block list throughout all gTLDs, unless the registry had obtained express permission from the relevant government for its release. This includes all closed .BRAND registries. INTA had previously submitted comments to ICANN on this matter, noting that such an “approval” process would require .BRAND registries to endure a burdensome and unpredictable procedure to obtain the release and right to activate a domain within their TLD that contains country/territory names at the second level. Furthermore, it is INTA’s position that by their very nature, descriptive country and territory names are not “proprietary” in nature and should be freely available by brands to indicate a valid geographic connection.

During a meeting with the ICANN Government Advisory Committee (GAC), registries - in particular Brand Registries - expressed the need for a more streamlined procedure, one that would not require them to seek approval from individual governments, which tend to hold varied attitudes toward the use of their country names in this context. Although it remains to be seen what action ICANN will ultimately take to address this matter, some measures to lessen the burden for registry operators were discussed. It was suggested, for example, that the registry operators should not be required to required to request the release of a name from every individual country. Rather, countries that agree to not require formal consent/approval could be listed publicly and only for countries not on that list will registries have to request permission for release of that specific country/territory’s name.

Other key debates centered on (1) ICANN accountability and the transition of stewardship of the IANA function from the U.S. Government, (2) policies regarding WHOIS requirements, and (3) a review of the new gTLD program, its status and concerns for future rounds of new gTLD applications.

INTA continues to take an active role in ICANN and encourages all members to participate in the ICANN activities and policy development process which are, no doubt, affecting their clients and companies in the online environment. INTA would also like to thank all the members who represented the Assocation at the ICANN 52 meeting. If you are planning to attend the ICANN 53 meeting in Buenos Aires, Argentina (June 21-25, 2015), please contact Kate Badura at kbadura@inta.org.

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