ICANN: next round of new gTLDs in 2018?

International

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) has published a report titled "New gTLD Program Reviews and Assessments". This report is a draft work plan which outlines the steps ICANN intends to take as part of its review and assessment of the first round of new generic top-level domain (gTLD) applications. This report also indicates that the next round of new gTLD applications is not likely to take place until mid-2018 at the earliest.

However, before ICANN can even consider opening up another round of new gTLD applications, it must first complete the application lifecycle for all 1,930 applications that were submitted in the 2012 new gTLD application period. In addition, it must also undertake a thorough review and assessment of the 2012 new gTLD application process.

ICANN envisages that all of the gTLD applications from the 2012 application round that have passed through the evaluation, objection and string contention processes will be delegated by the middle of 2017.

Running concurrently with this, ICANN is proposing to start the review and assessment program of the 2012 application round. This review process will cover:

(i) Programme implementation - ICANN will assess the implementation process of the Applicant Guidebook and the evaluation and application processes, with a view to helping define future new gTLD application rounds. ICANN envisages that input will be sought from new gTLD applicants and other community stakeholders as they will have valuable commentary on the process.

(ii) Root stability - ICANN will carry out a "thorough review" of the impact of the delegation of new gTLDs to the security and stability of the global Domain Name System.

(iii) Rights protection - ICANN will evaluate the effectiveness of the introduction of the Rights Protection Mechanisms under the new gTLD programme which includes the Trademark Clearinghouse, the Uniform Rapid Suspension System and the Post-Delegation Dispute Resolution Procedure.

(iv) Competition, Consumer Trust and Consumer Choice Review - under Section 9.3 of the Affirmation of Commitments that was signed between ICANN and the US Department of Commerce in September 2009, ICANN is obligated to "organise a review that will examine the extent to which the introduction or expansion of gTLDs has promoted competition, consumer trust and consumer choice".

According to the timeline published by ICANN, the above mentioned work items should be completed by the middle of 2017. However, it is likely that some of these timelines will slip and this is likely to push back the date for any second round of new gTLD applications.

The draft work plan will be a topic of discussion at the upcoming ICANN meeting in Los Angeles this October and is likely to prove popular as this lays the ground for the future of the new gTLD program. It is expected that a broad cross-section of the ICANN community will have comments on this topic.

David Taylor and Daniel Madden, Hogan Lovells LLP, Paris

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