The last ICANN meeting of the year was held in Barcelona, Spain between October 20nd and 25th, 2018. ICANN Meetings provide a forum to discuss internet-related issues that affect brand owners. It is therefore critical for brand owners to follow and participate in discussions. Several topics were discussed during the meeting that are of particular relevance to brand owners, including the impact of the GDPR on the WHOIS, Rights Protection Mechanisms (RPMs) and new gTLD subsequent Procedures. Dreyfus attended ICANN63, and this article highlights the key takeaways from the ICANN 63.
Whois : the Temporary Specification
One of the major topics of discussion at ICANN63 was, of course, the impact of the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) on the WHOIS. As a result of the entry into force of the EU’s GDPR in May registrars have redacted domain name registrant’s details, making it difficult for brand owners to enforce their rights. As a result, ICANN adopted a Temporary Specification to allow registries and registrars to continue to comply with their ICANN contractual requirements and with the GDPR.
The Temporary Specification still allows collecting registration data (including registrant information, administrative and technical contact). However, it restricts the access to personal data. Users who have a legitimate interest to get access to the information will have the possibility of contacting the registrant or administrative and technical contacts through an anonymized email or web form.
The Expedited Policy Development Process (EPDP) created to develop permanent policy to comply with the GDPR, met at ICANN in Barcelona to continue discussions on this topic in order to decide whether to confirm the Temporary Specification (becoming ICANN Consensus Policy) or modify it by May 25th, 2019 (the date on which it will expire). The EPDP published the Initial Report on the Temporary Specification on November 21rst, 2018 which was open for comment (until December 21rst) Following the review of public comments, the EPDP will work on the Final Report on final adoption of the temporary specification.
The unified Access Model
ICANN also initiated a separate process for a « Unified Access Model », a centralized WHOIS system managed by ICANN. They will be sending their feedback to the EPDP working group. The idea behind the Unified Access Model is that ICANN will assume responsibility and liability from registries and registrars for disclosing registrant data to third parties with a legitimate interest. Whilst this concept is still in very early stages of development, it was welcomed by many stakeholders. Brand owners therefore should keep an eye on this very important topic.
Another important matter for brand owners is the GNSO (Generic Names supporting Organization)’s Review of all Rights protection Mechanisms (RPMs) in all gTLDs by the PDP (policy development process) Working Group. The working Group is still in phase 1 – reviewing all RPMs developed for the new gTLD program, including the Sunrise and Trademarks Claims services offered through the Trademark Clearinghouse (TMCH) and the Uniform Rapid Suspension (URS), a dispute resolution procedure similar to the UDRP specifically designed for new gTLDs. At ICANN63, the Working Group met to present its initial survey findings on the TMCH. It also met to present and discuss its initial review of the URS proposals for operational fixes and policy recommendations. The Working Group also discussed the timeline and next steps for developing the Initial Report. It is expected that phase 2, which consists of a review of the UDRP, will begin in mid 2019. The UDRP is one of the most effective tools for brand owners to tackle infringing domain name registrations, and so it is also an important issue for brand owners that needs to be closely monitored.
New gTLD subsequent procedures
Finally, the New gTLD subsequent procedures Working group was created to review the 2012 round of new gTLDs (generic Top-level domains) and identify recommendations. The working group published its Supplemental Initial Report at the end of October 2018, which was open for comment. It covered several topics, including ICANN auctions as a last resort.
Approval given for ‘.amazon’
The ICANN approved the ‘.amazon’ new gTLD despite the opposition of the Amazon Cooperation Treaty Organization (ACTO). In return, the Amazon corporation agreed to implement special measures, so called “public interest commitments”, in order to avoid any confusion between the new gTLD and the Amazon geographical region or with the Amazon Cooperation Treaty Organization.
The approval of ‘.amazon’ as a new gTLD may open the way to a future new gTLD application rounds.