gTLD Launch: An Update on the TAS Interruption

by Mintz Levin - Copyright & Trademark Matters
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and Geri Haight

As previously posted, ICANN’s TLD application system (“TAS”) has been plagued by a “technical glitch ” that has caused the online application system for new generic top level domains (gTLDs) to be taken offline in order to protect the confidential information of the applicants.  Despite prior indications that the system would reopen in late April, the TAS system remains offline.

ICANN recently announced that it has now provided notification to all users as to whether their confidential information might have been impacted by the system error.  Such notifications were sent to the 1,275 registered TAS users in four categories:

  1. Users who did not have file names or usernames viewed;
  2. Users who had one or more file names or usernames that may have been viewed by another user;
  3. Users who may have seen the file names and/or usernames of one or more other users; and
  4. Users who had one or more file names and/or usernames that may have been viewed and who also may have been able to see the file names and/or usernames of other users.

ICANN is currently planning to reopen TAS on May 22, 2012 and anticipates a closing date of May 30, 2012.  However, ICANN has not yet indicated how this time frame will impact the remaining timeline for the TLD system rollout.

Also, in recognition of the inconvenience caused by the suspension of the TLD application system, ICANN has offered to provide a full refund of the application fees paid by any new gTLD applicant that wishes to withdraw its application prior to publication of the list of applied-for new top-level domain names.  ICANN acknowledges, though, that this gesture ”represents an increase of only US $5000 over the refund that withdrawing applicants would otherwise receive[.]“  This may not offer applicants who are now distrustful of the application system much relief, particularly those who have invested significant resources in preparing the voluminous information (e.g., Applicant Guidebook, Module 2, Attachment 2) required for completion of the gTLD application.

ICANN’s refund offer, in general, has not placated trademark owners.  For example, the Intellectual Property Constituency (IPC) sent a letter to ICANN’s Board of Directors urging it to reconsider the planned use of “digital archery” to batch new gTLD applications.  IPC criticized the “digital archery” plan as “complex, untried, and readily subject to gaming[,]” as well as “arcane and seemingly arbitrary[.]“  Seems pretty accurate to us.

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