IRT: Classic Case Study of How Not to Sell a Plan

The ICANN IRT needs a lesson in getting buy-in.

Implementation Recommendation Team (IRT) was set up by trademark interests to come up with a way to protect trademark owners during the launch of new top level domain names. The process by which it was set up and operated could be a case study in how not to get buy-in for a new idea.

I’ve worked with a lot of teams over the past dozen years and have had to sell ideas many times. I’ve managed groups of union workers, had to come up with a plan on how many people to lay off in a company (and whom) and faced many other challenges. One lesson that has been ingrained in me since I entered college at 18 was that you need to involve the people who will be affected by your plan in the decision making process. Ideally, you get them to think the plan was their own to begin with. (Try telling a group of 30 union workers that you’re changing how they do their work!)

So here’s a brief history of IRT. It was set up at the behest of ICANN’s intellectual property constituency. Few people were made aware of it and how to apply until it was basically too late. The one intellectual property expert that the Internet Commerce Association (ICA) recommended was rejected.

Once formed, members of the IRT operated mostly behind closed doors until its first draft recommendation was released. It was even so bold as to vote to keep its deliberations secret.

Then it released its “plan” all at once. This isn’t some minor tweaking to existing guidelines; it’s a bombshell. It completely re-writes the rules.

At the ICANN meeting in Sydney last week there was apparently quite a bit of push back to the plan. Kathy Kleiman, co-founder of the noncommercial users constituency, a drafter of the UDRP and also a trademark and telecommunications attorney, stated about IRT:

We object to the process that composed the IRT. This is largely the intellectual property constituency, which while experts also have opinions and they have things that they want on behalf of their
clients, I spent half a decade in ICANN as co-chair of different working groups banging heads with registrars, with business, with intellectual property constituency. That’s traditionally how we get things done.

So, Mr. Chairman, I would like to argue going forward the group that reviews the current and upcoming comments be one composed of constituencies excluded from the IRT process. Why? Because all week
the IRT committee has sat on high rejecting even the most basic of suggestions and ideas.

In the normal world, the way IRT has put forth its recommendations would surely result in defeat. But this process may be in a parallel world.


  1. Philip Corwin says

    Amen. As many know, ICA filed a protest with the ICANN Ombudsman, to little effect, that the IRT was operating in violation of relevant ICANN Bylaws.
    There was tremendous push back against the process and the recommendations in Sydney from a broad array of individuals and interests, and compelling arguments made that its recommendations must go through the normal Policy Development Process. I’ll be posting quite a bit this week on where things now stand with the IRT, and other key decisions made in Sydney,at over the course of this week. How the IRT Report is handled going forward will be a major test for Mr. Beckstrom and the ICANN Board.

    Meanwhile, it is absolutely imperative that those concerned by the Report file comments by the July 6th due date ( ) and consider attending one of the follow-up sessions in NYC, London, or other locales (

  2. says

    As members of ICANN’s Business Constituency, Michael and I agreed with Phil and supported an alternative proposal suggested by George Kirikos. The problem is that many in ICANN believe the new gTLDs and anything associated with them (such as the IRT) are blessed with an aura of fait accompli and anyone that slows down the process is persona non grata. Rod Beckstrom really needs to get a handle on this runaway train.

Leave a Reply