IP maximalists now seem to be targeting ICANN as yet another way to overclaim their rights and block legitimate domains from existing. As we've been discussing, there have been several fights concerning the new generic top level domains (gTLDs) where we've seen folks like the entertainment industry demand
extra special measures to keep them from being used to infringe copyrights. But the trademark folks may be going even further. We already have the (somewhat flawed) UDRP (Uniformed Domain Dispute Resolution Process) system for trademark holders to try to claim rights over a domain. This process lets trademark holders go through an arbitration process if they feel someone is abusing a trademark in a domain. In the past, we've discussed how this process is pretty sloppy
, but it still heavily
favors trademark holders. As in many arbitration situations, the big companies who bring back business to the arbitrators (magically) seem to win quite frequently.
However, that's just not enough for these trademark holders. Last year, for these new gTLDs, they were also able to establish a separate process, the URS (Uniform Rapid Suspension System)
which, everyone was told, would only
be used for the most egregious cases of trademark infringement -- the cases where it's so totally obvious that the domain in question infringes that the whole process can be cheap and streamlined.
However, before this process has even really been tested, trademark holders are trying very, very hard to basically lower the standards on URS and broaden the reach of it, such that it more or less replaces the UDRP process -- and thus makes it a system that lets trademark holders seize
the domains of those they accuse of infringement very cheaply, with minimal review, and to also block certain words from being registered in domains. Even more incredible? They're abusing an ICANN comment process to push this plan (which ICANN had earlier rejected).
All of this came out recently in a letter to ICANN's board
raising concerns about this effort. ICANN had opened up a comment period for a specific issue having to do with gTLDs, and the trademark folks went hogwild, asking for all of these other things, including:
- Lowering the standard for when the simplified URS process (seize domains quickly, ask questions later) process can be put in place. Originally, the bar had been set high so that this process could only be used in truly egregious cases where there was no question that the domain was infringing. But the proposal sought to lower the standard such that it's the same as the UDRP standard (effectively stepping in and replacing UDRP).
- Changing the already agreed upon URS system, such that domains that go through the process aren't just suspended, but transferred to the trademark holder. In other words, rather than just shutting down the domain, this fastpass system would simply turn the domains over to the trademark bullies.
- Saying that the URS process (which was developed just for these new TLDs) should also be expanded to cover the most important TLD of all: .com. Yes, that's right. That's the goal in all of this. To actually make it much, much easier for trademark bullies to completely shut down and gain control of domains that they don't like others to use, and to do it cheaply, with very little review.
And they did all this by abusing a comment process that has nothing to do with these issues, and despite the fact that earlier hard-fought battles over these issues came out with them on the losing side. But, this is how IP maximalists work. They just keep trying every way possible to get the same ridiculous rules made in their favor.