New gTLD registries previously on hold because of potential name collision problems are free to go live now that the New gTLD Program Committee (NGPC) has approved a framework to guide them.
The NGPC Name Collision Occurrence Management Framework also frees up scores of names at high risk of collision that had been blocked at the second level for strings already in the Root Zone.
Name collision refers to the unintended consequences that may occur when a new gTLD string matches an existing string on an internal network. In other words, as new gTLDs and second-level domains go live, they could “collide” with an exact match already in use within private networks.
Readers of gtldstrategy.com will recall that ICANN has been grappling with the issue since March 2013 when Verisign warned of security concerns caused by potential name collisions. In the fall of 2013, ICANN published an initial proposal stating that two strings, .HOME and .CORP, should be deferred from delegation indefinitely, while another two dozen new gTLDs could not be categorized. Those two dozen gTLDs were effectively left in limbo with no clear path forward while ICANN deliberated a final plan. All other strings were allowed to proceed using an Alternative Path to Delegation that required registries to block a list of terms thought to be at high risk of collision at the second level.
A resolution was reached last week when ICANN adopted the mitigation plan proposed by JAS Global Advisors, an independent information security firm. The plan requires all registries that delegate after a certain date to institute a 90-day “controlled interruption” period during which technical experts will monitor the domain name environment. During that period, only NIC.TLD may be registered. Other names may be allocated but not activated.
Registries that have delegated already must also adhere to the 90-day delay but only for second-level names on their blocked lists that they wish to release. New gTLDs that have launched but registered no name other than NIC.TLD may choose to undergo the 90-day name hold period, during which all names will be on hold not just the names on their block lists. Following the 90-day period, all eligible names will be released.
Despite the “all’s cleared” sign, problems remain.
Given the likelihood of collision with internal networks, the NGPC announced that .MAIL, .HOME, and .CORP will remain indefinitely deferred from delegation. ICANN has referred these strings to the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) to determine the best way to handle them.
Trademark owners also face a quandary. We have seen in the past how technical issues often conflict with business considerations, and the name collision mitigation plan is another example.
Among the names on the formerly blocked lists are, by some estimates, thousands of trademarks, which in some cases, brand owners were unable to register during Sunrise periods. In some cases, registries allowed trademark owners to reserve their marks, assuming the blocked names would eventually be released. In other cases, registries offered no such service and simply held back the blocked trademarks.
Thus, in some cases, brand owners never had a chance to register their marks ahead of the general public, which means trademarked terms will be available to one and all if the brand owner doesn’t move swiftly.
Protecting brand owners throughout the new gTLD application and delegation process has always been FairWinds Partners’ priority. The ICANN community will discuss this conundrum over the coming months. FairWinds will be watching closely and working with relevant ICANN groups to help to ensure that ICANN develops a remedy that helps businesses protect their trademarks.