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June 1, 2013 Vol. 68 No. 10 Back to Bulletin Main Page

Latest on New gTLDs: Comments Needed on GAC Advice, Registrar Accreditation Agreement

The ICANN Beijing public meeting in April included important developments that will affect implementation of the Trademark Clearinghouse, the Registry Agreement (RA) and the Registrar Accreditation Agreement (RAA).

First, ICANN’s Governmental Advisory Committee (GAC) issued formal advice to the Board of Directors regarding the ongoing implementation of new gTLDs.

The GAC issued its Beijing communiqué, which in part advised ICANN to implement consumer protection safeguards in its new gTLD program. The communiqué offered specific advice for certain categories of new gTLD strings, as well as certain safeguards applicable across all new gTLDs.

The GAC advised that ICANN should implement six safeguards for all new gTLDs. These include:

  • requiring registry operators to conduct checks twice a year to identify registrations with false or inaccurate WHOIS data;
  • requiring registries to include terms of use that discourage abusive activity such as trademark and copyright infringement, phishing and piracy;
  • mandating security checks to be conducted by registry operators;
  • requiring registries to keep detailed documentation on registrations that have inaccurate WHOIS data or that have been identified as security threats;
  • ensuring that all registry operators have a system for making complaints about incorrect WHOIS information; and
  • ensuring that all registry operators deliver “real and immediate consequences” for registrations with false WHOIS information. 

The GAC also expressed concerns about specific types of gTLDs, such as strings that are linked to regulated or professional sectors (including children, health and fitness, and government) and strings comprised of generic terms with “closed” registration policies. The GAC advised that exclusive registry access for generic gTLDs should serve a public interest goal if such domains are to be delegated.

    Brand Owners Take Issue with Proposed Changes to Registry Agreement

In response to other developments in Beijing, attendees of a session convened by the Brand Registry Group (BRG)—an independent membership organization formed by brand owner gTLD applicants that will serve as future registries—during the 135th INTA Annual Meeting in Dallas expressed concern over the latest version of the Registry Agreement (RA).

The RA, which is now open for comment, will serve as a contract between successful applicants for new gTLDs and ICANN, and will govern the rights and obligations of new gTLD registry operators.

The BRG is particularly uneasy with several sections of the RA, including the proposed process for special amendment. “You need to read this agreement,” said INTA Board member and Secretary J. Scott Evans during a session titled “Putting a Brand on ICANN: Important Issues for Brand Registry Applicants” in Dallas.

INTA is working in conjunction with the Internet Committee to submit comments, which are due by June 11. The RA can be viewed and comments submitted here.

On April 23, ICANN posted elements of the GAC Beijing communiqué for public comment, seeking specific input on the GAC’s recommended safeguards for new gTLDs.

While a consultation period remains open for comment until June 4, on May 8 ICANN announced a two-part plan for considering the GAC’s proposed safeguards. The plan consists of the initial public comment consultation, followed by the development of a “Scorecard” for responding to each part of the advice provided by the GAC.

A timeline for ICANN’s consideration of the GAC advice is available here.

RAA Improvements
On April 22, ICANN also posted a “Proposed Final 2013 Registrar Accreditation Agreement” (RAA) for public comment. The agreement, which can be viewed here, is proposed to apply to any registrar seeking to sell domains in new gTLDs.

INTA’s Internet Committee submitted comments on the RAA applauding the “substantial progress” made in this latest draft, such as requiring that registrars enforce their agreements with resellers and that they adhere to the Uniform Rapid Suspension System (URS). Through the submission, the INTA Internet Committee supported the requirement that all registrars must be under the new agreement to sell domains in new gTLDs, and urged ICANN to make additional improvements to the agreement, including: more stringent WHOIS verification methods; enforceable obligations on privacy and proxy service providers; and “a more rational, pragmatic and streamlined Special Amendment process” than is currently proposed.

The Committee also urged ICANN to implement two of the safeguards recommended by the GAC in its Beijing communiqué to discourage abusive activity and impose “real and immediate” consequences for false WHOIS information.

The ICANN Board’s consideration of the GAC Advice and the adoption of the new RAA will be on the agenda at ICANN’s next public meeting, in Durban, South Africa, from July 14–18, 2013.

INTA representatives and member organizations will attend the Durban meeting on behalf of the trademark community and in particular will participate in the Intellectual Property Constituency meeting on Tuesday, July 16.

Please contact INTA External Relations Manager Claudio DiGangi if you are interested in attending.

For more on gTLDs, read about the latest on enhancements to the Trademark Clearinghouse.

Although every effort has been made to verify the accuracy of items in the INTA Bulletin, readers are urged to check independently on matters of specific concern or interest.

© 2013 International Trademark Association