gTLD Update: New Draft Applicant Guidebook Released and Open for Public Comment

The new generic top-level domain names (gTLDs) are closer than ever. As previously discussed, ICANN’s Draft Applicant Guidebook Version 4 (DAG4) has been released. The guidebook, a comprehensive manual for potential gTLD applicants, explains the gTLD application process from filing to delegation (activation of the new domain), and outlines the various rights-protection mechanisms (RPMs) required to be implemented by registries for brand owners (initially discussed here). As expected, the DAG4 adds detailed provisions for the trademark clearinghouse — a comprehensive database of trademarks and owners that is intended to aid in rights protection — as well as the Uniform Rapid Suspension (URS) system, a dispute resolution system intended to combat clear cybersquatting efficiently and cost-effectively. The DAG4 also contains significant revisions to existing guidebook sections, including the provision for the Post-Delegation Dispute Resolution Procedure (PDDRP), a mechanism for dealing with gTLD registries that intentionally take advantage of brands or engage in patterns of bad faith behavior.

While there is still work to be done — for instance, some RPMs lack sufficient detail, and it is not at all clear that the URS, which is intended to be fast and efficient, is actually an improvement over the UDRP in this regard — the general impression in the domain name community is that the Draft Applicant Guidebook is close to its final form. This, of course, means that the new generic top-level domain names are coming sometime in the not-too-distant future.

In the meantime, the public still has a chance to influence ICANN — the DAG4 is open for public comment until July 21, 2010. Various intellectual property and trademark bar associations are reviewing the DAG4 and submitting comments aimed to improve and augment the various proposed RPMs. Anyone, however, may submit comments, and you may wish to do so on your own behalf or on behalf of your clients. The full version of the DAG4, individual sections, and redline comparisons to the previous version — as well as instructions for comment submission — are available at the ICANN website.

We will closely follow the new gTLD implementation process as it nears this apparent "home stretch."

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