expected to publish a new timescale for the rollout of gTLDs in the coming days, the leaders of the Judiciary Committees of the United States Senate and House of Representatives have called for the organisation to seek additional public comment
on the programme and to expand on the policies surrounding the trademark clearinghouse.
In this week’s letter to ICANN’s interim CEO Akram Atallah, senators Patrick Leahy and Charles Grassley and representatives Lamar Smith and John Conyers Jr note that “many members of the public outside the ICANN community are unaware that the new gTLD program is underway. Of those who are aware, few know about the public comment process or comprehend that their opportunity to participate in this forum is scheduled to end in less than a week”.
With ICANN’s independent objector only able to raise objections that have been previously voiced by the public, the congressmen have therefore asked for clarification on the efforts being undertaken to solicit such engagement from the broader public.
Trademark protection was also placed under scrutiny, in particular the requirement that that the trademark claims service only be available for the first 60 days after a registry launches. In addition to asking why this period could not be extended, the question of whether clearinghouse operators have “analysed the feasibility of providing more meaningful and comprehensive trademark notifications, instead of only providing notice when users register identical terms” is posed.
Other questions centred on potential measures to ensure that registries don’t use “strategic pricing to take advantage of businesses and individuals who feel compelled to defensively register their names” in sunrise periods and the status of ICANN’s work to “expand its compliance capabilities to monitor and investigate cases of abuse”.
In a statement released last night, INTA backed the politicians’ calls for stronger trademark mechanisms, arguing: “Without them, brand owners will be forced to devote a substantial amount of resources to defending their trademarks and protecting their customers, since there will be more opportunities for criminals to harm consumers, which includes misleading online shoppers into purchasing dangerous counterfeit products.”
In the coming days ICANN is expected to publish an updated timescale for the gTLD programme, which should at least answer the question of whether the public comment period is to be extended.
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