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International - Battle to protect Red Cross and Olympic Committee in new gTLDs not yet over

By Trevor Little
March 15 2012

A vote on proposals to offer the International Red Cross and International Olympic Committee (IOC) increased protection in the new gTLD space was deferred yesterday, a move that one commentator noted would effectively defeat the motion. However, negotiations are underway to keep the issue alive.

WTR previously reported on ICANN’s public comment period on Generic Names Supporting Organisation (GNSO) proposals to protect the International Red Cross and IOC names at the top level in new gTLDs. The move is based on the Government Advisory Committee’s (GAC) efforts to encourage ICANN to commit to a list of almost 40 terms that will be banned from the first round of gTLD applications, with variants of the OLYMPIC, OLYMPIAD, RED CROSS and RED CRESCENT trademarks among the so-called ‘Strings Ineligible for Delegation’. The argument for additional protection is based on the premise that the Red Cross and IOC “are unique, international, non-profit and humanitarian movements that have been accorded special legal protection by international legislation and treaties”.

While public comment is sought until March 23, yesterday the issue was due to be voted on at ICANN’s meeting in Costa Rica. However, at the request of the Non-Commercial Stakeholder Group (NCSG), the vote was delayed to the next GNSO council meeting – a move which David Taylor, partner at Hogan Lovells and IP representative for Europe on the GNSO Council, told WTR would “would put it past the close of the application window and thus effectively defeat the motion”.

The NCSG deferral request was based on the ongoing public comment period, stating: “One of the most important parts of the ICANN process is the public comment period, which allows public engagement and permits those affected by policies to express their views. Public comments constitute a quintessential part of ICANN’s ecosystem. How can ICANN depend on public comments when it makes a decision before they have all been received? The council should not hold a vote on something as important as the implicit creation of a new form of reserved names, especially one that singles out some international organisations for special consideration while ignoring others, without full comment.”

However, faced with the prospect of defeat by deferral, the GNSO is now seeking an expedited meeting to consider the motion once the public comment period closes.

Speaking during yesterday’s session, Taylor stated: “I am uncomfortable with the way this request for a deferral has been made and how it is being used to effectively defeat a motion rather than defer it. As we say in England ‘it is not cricket’. If we defer, we as the GNSO Council have failed to act and respond appropriately to the GAC and a time-sensitive and crucial matter because of process arguments. I am also uncomfortable with the position we are put in, as a Council, today if we do not allow the deferral. We are damned if we do and damned if we don't. I am also frustrated with the waste of the community’s time that will result and am mindful of the potential harm that this causes to the Red Cross and IOC as a result of the deadline passing. I thus fully support the idea of having an expedited meeting.”

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