New gTLD Objection

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The New gTLD Objection and Dispute Resolution process was laid out in the Applicant Guidebook of the New gTLD Program. The process gives business, applicants, organizations, and individuals a way to give objection arguments as to why a certain TLD should not be delegated. These formal objections will be arbitrated by an assigned organization, called a Dispute Resolution Service Provider (DRSP). A panelist from the DRSP hears written arguments from the objector and the applicant, and determines if the application prevails or the objector prevails.

The filing period for objections to New gTLDs began 13 June 2012 and lasted until 13 March 2013. The received objections then moved to the dispute resolutions process. ICANN estimated that it would take 5 months to decide most objections. 262 formal objections were filed (taken into account string applications that withdrew, leaving the objection unnecessary) during the filing period. As of December 2013, more than 200 objections had been decided.[1]

Filing a formal objection costs between $5,000-$13,000 per party depending on the DRSP. Some of the fees are born solely on the objector and are non-refundable. Other fees are paid by both the objector and the applicant, and are reimbursed to the party that prevails in the case.

Types of Formal Objections

  • String Confusion Objections

Main article: String Confusion Objection

Objector argues that Internet users will be confused between the applied-for string and an existing TLD, because the strings appear to be similar or share letters or meaning. Initially there were 67 Objections of this typed that were submitted.

  • Legal Right Objections

The objector argues that an applied-for string violates the legal rights of the objector. Initially there were 71 Objections of this typed that were submitted.

  • Limited Public Interest Objections

The objector argues that the applied-for string goes against accepted legal or moral norms recognized under international law. Initially there were 23 Objections of this typed that were submitted.

  • Community Objections

Main article: Community Objection

Objector argues that a substantial portion of the community that the applied-for string targets is against the delegation of that string. Initially there were 113 Objections of this typed that were submitted.[2][3]

Dispute Resolution Service Providers

There are three DRSPs that were selected to determine objections.

Filing Fees

The fees required to file an objection vary on the objection and the organization that is collecting the fees.

The ICDR charges a $2,750 filing fee to the objector and a $3,000 fee to the objector and the applicant. The latter fee is refunded to the prevailing party. There is also a $6,000 fee for each party for cases that require a hearing instead of just a neutral arbitrator.[4] Details of the ICDR's fees for New gTLD Objections are laid out in this document:

The WIPO charges a flat $10,000 fee to each party, some amount of which is then refunded to the prevailing party depending on the arbitration proceedings. A Single-Expert Panel or a Three-Expert Panel may be selected, requiring $10,000 and $23,000 in fees respectively. Discounts are given when one objector submits objections to different strings or when one string has multiple objections decided in one proceeding.[5] Details of WIPO's fees can be found here:

The ICC charges a non-refundable €5,000 to the applicant and the objector, and the expert's hourly rate is €450. Both parties also pay for administrative expenses, which will not exceed €12,000 for a single expert or €17,000 for a three-expert panel.[6] Applicants originally reported to ICANN that the ICC quoted some applicants at €50,000 for a single expert and €150,000 for a three-expert panel. ICANN promised to discuss the fees with ICC and they were ultimately reduced.[1] Details of the ICC's fee can be found here:

Objection Funding

Certain governmental entities and individuals in the ALAC can apply to ICANN to receive financial assistance with submitting a formal objection. The period for apply for funds ended 11 March 2012.[2]

Independent Objector

Main article: Independent Objector

The Independent Objector (IO) was stipulated in the Applicant Guidebook as a neutral party who is responsible for determining if a New gTLD application is in the best interests of the Internet community. If they find the application is not in the community's best interests, they can file a formal objection against the application. Alain Pellet was selected by ICANN to be the IO, and he ultimately submitted 24 formal Objections to various applications[7]

Determinations

The first determinations were decided in early July 2013 by the WIPO.[8] By December 2013 more than 200 Objections had been decided.[9]

Controversial Decisions

A number of the determinations by expert panelists have become a top of much debate within the Internet and ICANN community. These include conflicting decisions on plural vs. singular strings, and different decisions on separate applications for the same string.

Plural vs Singular Strings

The String Similarity Panel decided in February 2013 that the strings .hotel and .hotels would not be confusing to Internet users. Furthermore, an Objection case submitted by the applicant of .car against .cars was decided in favor of .cars, as the panelist decided the strings were not confusingly similar. These two cases were initially thought to set the precedent for further decisions that plural versions of strings are not confusingly similar to their singular counterparts. However, an ICDR panelist decided that .pets and .pet are confusingly similar, and he determined the case in favor of Google, the .pet applicant. ICANN has yet to respond to or reconcile these conflicting decisions.[10]

Conflicting decisions on a single string

Another situation that created controversy was also a situated that had not seem to be taken into account ahead of time by ICANN. In one case, Verisign submitted separate objections to all three applicants for the .cam string, saying it was confusingly similar to their .com. The company lost two of its objections but won a third against Demand Media. In a similar case, Google objected to all three applicants for .cars, but only prevailed against one applicant.[11]

The conflicting decisions prompted many applicants to call for an appeals process that could sort out these situations. On 13 December 2013 the ICANN Ombudsman published a blog post calling for the community's feedback on the issue.[12]

Possible Appeals Process

In response to some of the more controversial or troublesome decisions, many applicants called on ICANN to create some sort of appeals process for disputing Objection Determinations. In February 2014 ICANN released a statement by the NGPC that announced the committee is considering a "path forward" to address inconsistent determinations which will include some sort of "review mechanism". However, this review will only consider determinations on .car/.cars and .cam/.com, leaving other conflicting determinations without an appeals process.[13]

Public Comments vs. Formal Objections

The New gTLD Program includes a formal Objections process as well as a public comments process. Anyone can submit a public comment at no charge in the Applicant Comments Forum. Frequently, these comments are objecting to individual applications or supporting applicant strings. The forum is accepting comments indefinitely, but comments received before 26 September 2012 would be forwarded to the attention of the Initial Evaluation review panel in charge of reviewing the application that the comment pertains to.[14] Objections submitted in the public forum were not submitted to the DRSP and thus did not require a decision by an expert panelist.

Some news organizations reported that Saudi Arabia was "Objecting" to a number of New gTLD applications, including .gay and .bible. However, these objections were filed in the Applicant Comments Forum and were not formal objections, thus they did not require a response from the applicants nor did they require an expert determination.[15]

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 262 New gTLD Objections Filed, NetNames.com Retrieved 13 Dec 2013
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Objection and Dispute Resolution, ICANN.org Retrieved 13 Dec 2013
  3. ICANN: about 274 New gTLD Objections Filed, DomainIncite Retrieved 13 Dec 2013
  4. ICDR Fees Retrieved 13 Dec 2013
  5. WIPO Fees Retrieved 13 Dec 2013
  6. ICC Fees Retrieved 13 Dec 2013
  7. Amazon and Google Hit as IO Files 24 New gTLD Objections Retrieved 13 Dec 2013
  8. First Three New gTLD Objections Thrown Out, DomainIncite Retrieved 13 Dec 2013
  9. Objection Determinations, ICANN.org Retrieved 13 Dec 2013
  10. Google beats Donuts in Objection - .pet and .pets are confusingly similar, DomainIncite Retrieved 13 Dec 2013
  11. String Confusion in Disarray as Demand's .cam loses against Verisign's .com, DomainIncite Retrieved 13 Dec 2013
  12. Should New gTLDs Objections have an Appeals Process, DomainIncite Retrieved 13 Dec 2013
  13. Conflicting gTLD Objection Decisions to Get Appeals Process, DomainIncite Retrieved 10 Feb 2014
  14. Applicant Comments Forum, ICANN.org Retrieved 13 Dec 2013
  15. Saudi Arabia Objections to .catholic and .gay, Slate.com Retrieved 13 Dec 2013