Open window: an interview with Olof Nordling


While the new gTLD application window was open, TB&I spoke to ICANN’s director of services relations about what happens after the process is finished.

TB&I: What is your role at ICANN?

ON: I’m director of services relations, which means in practice I do a lot of different things. I’m in charge of the Brussels office from a practical point of view, although people here report to different bosses back at headquarters in California, US. In relation to the generic top-level domains (gTLDs), I’ve been involved in their development ever since I joined ICANN in 2005.

I provided support for the policy development process and I was on the implementation team that drafted, little by little, what was to become the final applicant guidebook.

Apart from that, I assist the address-supporting organisation, which is the entity that draft s and develops policy for the allocation of IP address space, system numbers and the like, and I support the nominating committee for ICANN, which appoints most members of the board. Finally I’m responsible for organisational reviews, so it’s a mixed bag and it has changed over the years— perhaps I’m a little bit of a flying goalie, actually.

What will happen at the end of the application process for new gTLDs?

There will probably be a lot of scrutiny and a lot of reaction. It’s a bit early to tell, but for example you can expect those who are considered to have supplied an incomplete application to have some concerns about that. Also, of course, there is the public comment and objection filing period when you may have people saying “oh, here’s an application for a name that’s really very close, or more or less confusingly similar, to our particular brand”. These people will, no doubt, take steps to prepare for the objection process.

How long do you expect it will take to resolve all the objections, one way or another? When will the new sites actually be up and running?

There are various scenarios—some applications may go with flying colours through all the steps in the process. In that case (if there were no objections, no contention, nothing to resolve) you would expect, given the time needed for the processing and for the final contracting, that you would see approval, at the very earliest, at the end of this year and the first new gTLDs being launched—probably not as a big bang, but rather like a trickle, in 2013.


It’s not ICANN per se that will resolve objections— for that we have appointed external dispute resolution service providers. On the brand side, for example, when it comes to objections that cover IP rights, they will be lodged with the WIPO—that’s the appointed dispute resolution service provider for that kind of objection. There are three other services for other varieties of objections.

All have slightly different procedures to follow but the WIPO process is probably fairly well known to TB&I readers, since it has long been one of the dispute resolution service providers for the Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP).

Do you think ICANN has addressed trademark protection adequately?

If you compare what we have in the final applicant guidebook with what was in the general policy approved by the board, there have been numerous detailed procedures grafted on to it and some of those, I’m actually quite surprised to see materialised. For example, the Trademark Clearinghouse is a wholly new feature, and it will go to some lengths in giving assurance to brand owners.

The use of the Trademark Clearinghouse for sunrise periods and IP claims is compulsory for all the new gTLDs. Plenty of other novel features have also been added, such as the uniform rapid suspension procedure to facilitate take-down of infringing domain names.

We all have a common goal to work for and that’s to have a safe, secure Internet that works properly. I think we’re a long way down the road to that particular goal, perhaps further than I could have expected in the beginning.

Does ICANN understand the importance of phase II of the application process following quickly?

ICANN has understood that from the very beginning, because this was part of the policy adopted. Initially it was pretty prescriptive, but it became clear that to start a new round in two years or so, which was the gist of the original policy proposals, was unrealistic because of the need to evaluate the effects of the first round.

There were conflicting objectives in that sense: we’ll evaluate what the first round implies but also very quickly have a second round of applications. We cannot put a date to it, but the endeavours are there to make it as quick as humanly possible, while also making sure that we first complete the proper evaluation steps that will be needed.

This article was first published on 01 May 2012 in World IP Review

ICANN, interview, Olof Nordling, UDRP, gTLDs

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