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April 15, 2014 Vol. 69 No. 8 Back to Bulletin Main Page

New gTLDs and Internet Governance Take Center Stage in Singapore

On March 23–27, 2014, Singapore hosted the 49th International Public ICANN meeting. The meeting consisted of more than 300 sessions on Internet Domain Name System (DNS) issues.

The meeting began following an historic announcement by the United States Department of Commerce, National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), expressing NTIA’s intention to transfer certain key Internet domain name functions to “the global multi-stakeholder community.” As an initial step, NTIA requested that ICANN convene “global stakeholders” to develop a proposal that will be considered by NTIA to transition its current role in the IANA functions process. ICANN has now opened a public consultation process on its website until May 8th. Trademark owners are encouraged to participate in the ongoing deliberations concerning the transition of the IANA functions. ICANN will also continue to hold public discussions on this topic, including at its upcoming meetings in London (June 2014), Los Angeles (October 2014), and in meetings in Africa, Latin America, and Europe in 2015.

IANA Functions Background

Since its formation in September 1998, ICANN has operated through two contractual arrangements with the United States Department of Commerce. As its “DNS project partner” the NTIA has maintained a contractual arrangement with ICANN to operate the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) services for over 15 years. The IANA functions are to manage the Internet’s Root Zone database and coordinate IP addressing and other Internet protocol resources. In 2009, the NTIA concluded its other contractual arrangement with ICANN, the Joint Project Agreement, which was replaced with the Affirmation of Commitments (AoC). Under the AoC, ICANN coordinates periodic reviews of its performance on several issues through community involvement.

The NTIA communicated that the transition proposal must have “broad community support” and address the following four principles: “support and enhance the multi-stakeholder model; maintain the security, stability, and resiliency of the Internet DNS; meet the needs and expectation of the global customers and partners of the IANA services; and maintain the openness of the Internet.” More specific criteria in regard to how any specific transition proposal will be considered for approval by the NTIA have not been announced.

Two U.S. congressional hearings were held in Washington, D.C., and two pieces of legislation have been introduced on Congress’s role in the process of transitioning the IANA functions. In the interim, ICANN is proceeding to solicit public contributions on creating a process for the development of a transition proposal to replace the NTIA’s role in the IANA functions process.

New gTLDs

The Singapore meeting agenda also focused on the expansion of the DNS, which is now underway with the delegation of more than 175 new gTLDs to the Internet. The expansion is creating more challenges for the protection of trademarks in the domain name system, along with opportunities for trademark owners to utilize top-level domains. Several new gTLD implementation issues were considered in Singapore, including the impact of new gTLDs on private networks, an issue referred to as “name collisions.” ICANN is currently seeking public comment on a mitigation strategy for name collisions and has created a dedicated webpage on the issue, which includes new resources for companies and IT professionals.

During the Singapore meeting, ICANN passed a Board resolution to approve a new contractual provision for new gTLD registries operated by brand owners. INTA has supported the adoption of these terms to provide greater flexibility for trademark owners that have applied to operate “branded” gTLDs. A final component of the provision related to exclusive use of domain registrars within these gTLDs remains subject to adoption.

The Intellectual Property Constituency of ICANN met on March 25 and received reports from the staff on several projects underway to improve contractual compliance activity, an ongoing concern of trademark owners, and in developing a new Whois accuracy tool for the purposes of improving the integrity of domain registrations. In the new gTLDs being launched today, ICANN has committed itself to proactively identify false and inaccurate Whois information in new gTLDs and to take corrective action where appropriate. In addition, ICANN has accepted advice to conduct security and malware scans of domains within the new gTLDs. The input of INTA’s Internet Committee on trademark issues was also communicated in several public sessions with the ICANN Board and staff.

Issues related to the expansion of new gTLDs will be covered at INTA’s Annual Meeting in Hong Kong in the session “Trademarks and New Generic Top-Level Domains (gTLDs): An Update,” to be held Monday, May 12, from 10:15am to 11:30am.

ICANN’s Intellectual Property Constituency will hold an open meeting in Hong Kong on Wednesday, May 14, from 10:30am to 12:30pm. This will be followed by a meeting of the Brand Registry Group from 1:00pm to 3:00pm on issues specifically related to “branded gTLDs.”

The INTA Bulletin will continue to report on these issues and the work of the Internet Committee on behalf of trademark owners. If you have any questions about these topics, please contact Claudio DiGangi, INTA's Manager, External Relations, Internet & the Judiciary, at

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.

© 2014 International Trademark Association