INTA 2013: .brand gTLD applicants urged to negotiate contracts


Branded generic top-level domain (gTLD) applicants must negotiate early to secure suitable registry contracts, brand owners warned at the INTA 2013 meeting.

The brand registry group (BRG), which represents businesses applying for closed (not publicly available) gTLDs, said it was vital they begin discussing their contracts with the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN).

Members of the group – J. Scott Evans, Laura Covington, Stacey King and Paul McGrady – were speaking almost a week after ICANN posted a revised registry agreement (RA) for public comment.

The BRG, whose members include Yahoo and Amazon, want exclusive provisions for single-registrant .brand applicants, because they won’t be selling domain names to the public.

One wish centres on the emergency backend registry operator (EBERO), which would take over a registry unable to survive any longer. Paul McGrady said the BRG needs assurances that the new registry will run the business “in accordance with registration restrictions and that the EBERO gains no trademark rights by providing these services”.

“I’m very concerned,” he said.

He added that the BRG wants ICANN to acknowledge that it doesn’t acquire any brand rights through the RA, and that running rights-protection mechanisms are a “waste of time” (if you’re closed registry) but “we must balance the optics of asking for their removal against the minimal hassle”.

About one third of gTLD applications were filed by brand owners, and Stacey King, another member of the BRG, urged them to negotiate their contracts early because “the more people signing [the agreement], the less people can negotiate”.

King outlined further concerns with the current RA, including that ICANN can use internal policy-making processes to approve its own rejected proposed RA amendments, if the changes fall within “the scope of ICANN’s mission and core values, or in the public interest”.

“You need to read this agreement,” King said. “It’s very convoluted. Read it, post public comments and negotiate early.

After King finished explaining the BRG’s gripes by using ICANN diagrams to illustrate her points, Evans asked the audience: “Who is lost?”, to which a majority of attendees in the room responded by raising their hands.

Evans added: “You can’t trust ICANN – they’re not a very mature organisation. Negotiate these things well.”

The revised RA is open for public comment until May 20, with ICANN’s response deadline set for June 11. ICANN is expected to evaluate all new gTLDs by August this year.

This article was first published on 05 May 2013 in World IP Review

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