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.Name Tld Expands

by Demys News Service

As of today Global Name Registry - operators of the .name top level domain - are allowing web users to register second rather than third level domains. This will allow hundreds of thousands of new domains to become available in the .name space.

.name was introduced in 2001 as one of seven new generic top level domains that included .info and .biz among others. Intended for use by individuals, domains could only be registered in the third level - e.g. www.john.smith.name (note the dot between john and smith). This differed from other gTLDs, such as .com, where domains can be registered directly in the second level - e.g. www.johnsmith.com. This system was specifically designed to encourage customers to use them for the purpose they were intended.

However, today's announcement allows .name domains to be registered in a similar way to other gTLDs. This has the advantage of giving consumers a greater choice of potential domains to choose from. But there has been some concern from intellectual property holders that this move will also give a whole new domain space for domain speculators to exploit.

Whether it will in fact open the floodgates to abusive registrants remains to be seen, but brand holders - especially those that use personal names in their advertising - should remain vigilant. Demys.net will keep you posted on developments.

As the misfortune to end with the same letters as an established domain name then you may face difficulties from registrations in that domain space.

That's exactly what was identified in the recently decided domain name dispute relating to freixe.net. Freixenet is of course the producer of that sparkling wine in the distinctive black bottle. Or is it? Could it be Frei [Free in German] IXe [short for Unixes, plural of Unix in German]? That was the respondent's contention in the recent case before the World Intellectual Property Organization under the Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP).

As regular readers of Demys.net know, we like to describe the UDRP as a boxing match of three rounds in each of which the complainant must 'win on points'.

Trademark Round

The first round is the trademark round. Here, Freixenet had to show that they had a mark which was identical or confusingly similar to the domain name. No problem for the now multinational wine producing group - the owner of multiple registrations for Freixenet worldwide, with the earliest dating from 1922. However, a complication was encountered with the suffix. This is something usually discounted by UDRP arbiters as a wholly generic factor.

No such discounting was made by the arbiter in this case. Instead, he pointed out that Internet users may read the domain 'as a whole and hence may be lead to the assumption to deal with Complainant' . It is not entirely clear what this means, and commentators might have expected some more detailed explanation from the arbiter for the departure from the generally applied rule. Perhaps this might have gone along the lines of 'if it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, then it's a duck' - in other words if the suffix seems to be an integral part of what makes the domain confusingly similar and seems to have been chosen from that point of view, then it need not be discounted as generic in the comparison process.

Having started with such a bang, Freixenet looked to have every bottle that they needed on the wall, and so it turned out.

Legitimate Interest

Round two is the legitimate interest round, where the complainant must show that the respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in the domain. Here, the respondent's stated plan to use the domain for a free, non-commercial email purpose as an acronym for Free Unixes was given no credence by the arbiter, who pointed out that this could not be a bona fide offering of goods and services under the domain (one of the possible elements of legitimate interest). The arbiter did not discuss whether this might or might not fit one of the other categories - legitimate non-commercial or fair use - to which it seems the respondent may have been directing his submission.

Perhaps the 'duck' rule of logic was being applied again; if the domain name needs an explanation which would not be apparent even to 'professional computer users and insiders', far less the general public, it could not be recognised as Free Unixes, as the respondent had contended.

Bad Faith

Finally, there is the bad faith round. Here, the complainant argued for 'opportunistic bad faith' - that the respondent could not have been unaware of the complainant's rights in the name. A key factor was the apparent failure of the respondent to set up a web site for seven years - indicating no real intention to use the name. The arbiter cited a now-famous case - Telstra Corp. Ltd. v. Nuclear Marshmallows as his authority. But once again, some might say he missed the opportunity to go through the factors given in that case in detail - maybe, applying duck logic for the final time, this was simply unnecessary.

And so, a sparkling story to begin the new year; and maybe this is indeed the time for drinks rather than detailed argument.

it is authorized and no others."

The world's largest Internet addressing company, VeriSign operates dot-com, dot-net and dot-org -- the first, third and fifth largest domains.

DENIC, which operates dot-de, and Nominet UK, which operates dot-uk, collaborated on the statement with VeriSign and several other, smaller registry operators.

In a letter to Victory dated today, the trade association representing the European registry operators said that they had worked closely with VeriSign "in reaching a common view of a lightweight ICANN."

Although ICANN has come under fire from public interest groups and lawmakers who have questioned the openness and public accountability of the group, today's statement represents one of the most vocal critiques of the organization from the industry it manages.

Germany's sovereign Internet addressing code, dot-de, has more than 5.5 million registrations and is the second largest Internet domain behind the mammoth dot-com. England's dot-uk is the fourth largest Internet domain with more than 3.5 million registrations.

ICANN President Stuart Lynn said he's not surprised that the groups want to free themselves from the regulatory fetters that bind them.

"A registry by definition has a monopoly, so they all have a common interest in preserving individual monopolistic practices, so they don't want to be accountable to anybody," Lynn said.

Registry operators like VeriSign, DENIC and Nominet wield substantial power over valuable, limited resources, Lynn said. ICANN maintains the only real check on those powers, he added.

ICANN oversees the Domain Name System (DNS) under a series of agreements with the Commerce Department. In that capacity, ICANN determines the wholesale prices for many domain names, decides what new domains can be added to the system and maintains contractual agreements with many addressing companies.

Cochetti said the coalition of addressing companies want ICANN to stop "regulating" the prices and services domain-name wholesalers (or registries) can offer. The group would also like to see ICANN get out of the business of deciding who may manage country-code top-level domains like dot-de and dot-uk.

ICANN's agreements with the U.S. government never cleared ICANN to perform those duties, Cochetti said.

Lynn countered that those duties fall squarely under those agreements.

"The record doesn't even begin to support that," Lynn said of the assertion that ICANN has gradually taken on more power than it was authorized to wield. "This is rhetoric by someone who runs the biggest registry -- by a factor of four -- in the world," Lynn said of VeriSign.

VeriSign runs dot-com, dot-net and dot-org under agreements with ICANN that prevent VeriSign from raising the wholesale price of the addresses it sells (), or substantially changing the way it runs the domains.

Lynn contended that VeriSign happily entered the agreements under which their prices were capped.

"If they put their efforts into improving their customer service rather than into complaining about the agreements they voluntarily entered into and are now trying to wriggle out of, they'd probably be farther ahead," Lynn said, citing VeriSign's shrinking industry market share.

Lynn accused VeriSign and the European registries that signed the letter of attempting to exploit an internal ICANN reform process to gain greater economic advantage.

In September, ICANN's agreements with the U.S. government are up for renewal. The Commerce Department says it is closely following ICANN's internal reform effort.

Responding to concerns about openness, accountability and public participation, ICANN is attempting to reform its governance structure.

Cochetti said that concerns about that reform proposal were one of the main triggers for today's joint statement.

"We collectively are deeply disturbed that the debate over ICANN reform has not focused on the critical issue, which is ICANN's function," Cochetti said.

Although ICANN has proposed reconfiguring its management structure, it has not proposed any real reforms of its duties, Cochetti said.

"We welcome this statement," Commerce Department spokesman Clyde Ensslin said. "The issues addressed in the letter are very significant."


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