Why does ICANN matter to brand owners and the IP community? Simple: In this Third Industrial Revolution, we need a stable, secure and unified global Internet. We want the certainty of knowing that when we type an address into whatever flavor of computerized device we currently favor we will get to our destination. ICANN, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, coordinates the unique identifiers that make up the Internet’s naming system. In its efforts to keep the system secure and stable, ICANN develops policy. Sometimes the policy relates to security or the technical interoperability of the DNS (the domain name system). Sometimes the policy relates to competition, which is why we are now facing an expansion of registries under ICANN’s new gTLD program—from 22 to over 1,200.
ICANN has traditionally created policy through bottom-up consensus. The views of four main stakeholder groups—registry operators, registrars, non-commercial interests and commercial interests—are weighed against each other in a multi-stakeholder model of governance. But in the past year there have been instances when the line between implementation and policy has become blurred. Issues that don’t belong inside ICANN have surfaced—for example, whether the new gTLD applications for .wine and .vin should proceed without additional safeguards for geographical indications (GIs). Some governments have called for a right of veto over matters of both policy and implementation.
Next month INTA will host a conference entitled “Internet, Innovation and ICANN: The Evolving Landscape of the Net.” During the sessions on Internet Governance and GIs, panelists will address the ways in which ICANN has evolved (and continues to do so) in its efforts to satisfy this multi-stakeholder model and to meet the levels of predictability, transparency and accountability that trademark owners need in light of the expanding DNS. Trademark owners, especially those who applied for one or more of the 800 .brand registries, continue to call upon ICANN to give priority to intellectual property protections and to uphold a respect for the rule of law, including registered rights. The ultimate outcome is yet to be seen, but these issues will undoubtedly make for some spirited discussion.
“Internet, Innovation and ICANN: The Evolving Landscape of the Net” will take place at the JW Marriott Hotel in San Francisco, California, USA, September 18–19, 2014. Follow the link to learn more and to register.
Nick Wood is Managing Director at Com Laude & Valideus. He currently serves as Co-Chair of the Internet Conference 2014 Project Team, Chair of the Issue Identification Subcommittee of the Emerging Issues Committee and Chair of the Building Bridges Presidential Task Force.