With the ICANN New gTLD Program train out of the station and running full speed ahead, there has been little hope among trademark owners of a further delay. The newly minted Coalition for Responsible Internet Domain Oversight (CRIDO) aims to change that. CRIDO, comprised of the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) and 87 major national and international business associations and companies, including Coca-Cola, Ford, and GE, is “committed to aggressively fighting ICANN’s proposed program, citing its deeply flawed justification, excessive cost and harm to brand owners, likelihood of predatory cyber harm to consumers and failure to act in the public interest, a core requirement of its commitment to the U.S. Department of Commerce.”
As its first order of business, CRIDO sent a petition on November 10, 2011 to John Bryson, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Commerce, calling on the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) to “persuade ICANN to postpone the opening of the top-level domain application window unless or until such time as ICANN convincingly demonstrates” that the New gTLD Program will coincide with ICANN’s commitments to the NTIA.
While the criticism leveled at ICANN is understandable, CRIDO’s demand may be unrealistic. A number of the CRIDO members (individually or as part of various intellectual property organizations) submitted comments to both ICANN and the NTIA earlier in the New gTLD Program development process, to little effect. And while the NTIA has been one of the New gTLD Program’s most vocal critics, both within the ICANN process as part of the Governmental Advisory Committee (GAC) and outside of the process, neither it nor the GAC managed to thwart the ICANN Board’s June 2011 vote to approve the New gTLD Program. As CRIDO’s petition points out, the New gTLD Program approval was made “despite widespread objections raised throughout the process by many in the global community of Internet users.”
Now, with the application window opening in just under two months, and with an as-yet-unknown number of applicants who have invested significant capital in preparing to operate gTLD registries, the chance of an additional delay in the New gTLD Program probably approaches zero, and there is a danger that CRIDO’s recent formation and initial petition will appear a bit out-of-touch, despite its honorable intentions. Two years ago, or any time prior to Board’s June 2011 vote, such efforts might have had greater potential to impact the process from the outside. And while I have no objections to last-ditch efforts to derail trains carrying dangerous cargo, CRIDO, as its constituent members have done and continue to do, might simultaneously look ahead and participate within the ICANN process to ensure that, even if we are all agreed that the New gTLD Program is a truly bad idea at its inception, rightsholders continue to be heard loudly proposing solutions along with their objections.