News from ICANN: New gTLD Launch confirmed in January 2012

Applications for new gTLDs will open on 12 January 2012. In a special meeting at the 41st ICANN Open Meeting in Singapore, the ICANN Board voted 13 to one with two abstentions to approve the Applicant Guidebook and implement the new gTLD programme.

The application window will run from this 12 January 2012 launch date for 90 days, closing on 12 April 2012. 15 days later on 27 April 2012 a summary list of applications will be published. The first results from the ICANN evaluators will be published in November 2012. This means that new gTLDs could begin to go live from early 2013, allowing time for Pre-Delegation testing and the insertion of new character strings into the root zone of the global domain name system.

The Board Resolution, which is reported on the ICANN homepage at http://www.icann.org/, acknowledges that further changes to the Applicant Guidebook will be made before the launch. Amongst the outstanding issues is the question of “Vertical Integration” between registry operators and registrars.

Acknowledging that the Board is pushing ahead without the support of the Government Advisory Committee (GAC), ICANN Chair Peter Dengate Thrush said, “Unless innovation can be restrained it should be allowed to roam free….but  ICANN cannot survive without full support from the governments of the world. There are aspects of GAC advice that we have elected not to follow. This is in accordance with the By-laws.” Accordingly an additional diplomatic resolution was passed by the Board, “Expressing the deep appreciation of the ICANN community for the extraordinary work it has invested in crafting the new gTLD programme”.  GAC Chair Heather Dryden, the Canadian representative, said neutrally, “We will continue the discussion with the Board and the community”.

This was in contrast to the euphoric tone of some of the Board Members and many delegates at the ICANN meeting. Steve Crocker, a strongly tipped candidate to be the next Chair of ICANN said, “Is the programme perfect? Of course not. Is it solid? Yes …Strap yourself in. There will be turbulence along the way. It will be quite an exciting ride.”

Winners in this process, which will lead to the introduction of hundreds, perhaps thousands of new registries, include “Developing  World Applicants” who will be given a 76% waiver on the application fees of $185,000 and, to a limited extent, the Red Cross and the International Olympic Committee whose names have been granted special protections at the top level (though not at the second level).

The impact for brand owners involves an evaluation process of whether to apply or not and a requirement to re-configure rights protection programmes.

Nick Wood, Managing Director of Valideus and Com Laude said “for a small number of brand owners, especially those born of the internet, this is good news because there are real advantages of communication and security.  However for the majority of rights owners this heralds a period of uncertainty.  New strategies to defend IP across a considerably expanded domain landscape will be essential.”

For further information, contact info@valideus.com.

Valideus is the new gTLD consulting arm of Com Laude.

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