Objection! What objections against Donuts’ TLDs show us about the next phase of the new TLD game
Thursday, March 21st, 2013
An early look at new TLD objections shows some questionable claims.
The deadline to file objections against new top level domain applications was March 13. Dispute resolution providers are slowly posting the objections, but it looks like what has been posted so far is just the tip of the iceberg.
Donuts, the largest TLD applicant with 307 applications, has informed Domain Name Wire that it received around 40 objections. Donuts provided details on a limited number of the objections to Domain Name Wire.
Many of these objections were, not surprisingly, filed by competitors who want to use any tool at their disposal to get a leg up on or hurt the competition.
I’m going to go through each of the four types of objections and include some examples involving Donuts and publicly available information.
I’ll start with community objections because I’ve already gone on the record saying that the community provisions in the new TLD program (both for applicants and objections) are perhaps the most “game-able” part of the whole program.
Many of the applicants that claimed some sort of community status are also filing objections against competitors.
In order to win a community objection, the objector must prove four things:
1. The community is clearly delineated
2. Community opposition is substantial
3. There’s a strong association between the community and the applied for string
4. The TLD creates a “likelihood of material detriment” to that communityThe International Ski Federation has filed an objection to Donuts’ .ski application. Based on its web site, it looks like the group represents some parts of the snow skiing world, and not other types of skiing such as water skiing.
That issue aside, how would this group face material detriment from .ski? Get ready to laugh.
According to Donuts, the objection claims that the existence of .ski could cause bullying, racism, doping and other harms on the slopes.
SportAccord, a coordinating body for international sports federations (and a competing applicant for .sport filed under community status), has objected to Donuts’ applications for .sport and .sports. Because, you know, SportAccord represents the entire community of people who have ever picked up a basketball.
I’m particularly amused by the objection filed by Employ Media against .careers. Employ Media runs .jobs, which has been fighting off criticism by career sites since it opened up beyond its original terms of only offering second level .job domains that corresponded to company names.
Employ Media is arguing that the establishment of .careers would injure job seekers in some way.
Basically, .jobs feels threatened by .careers. It’s ironic because online career sites felt the same way about .jobs expanding beyond its original charter by setting up thousands of second level .jobs sites. Now Employ Media is on the other side of the table.
Legal Rights Objection
We knew there would by gaming around supposed trademark rights, and now we have an example.
A legal rights objection will “determine whether the potential use of the applied-for gTLD by the applicant takes unfair advantage of the distinctive character or the reputation of the objector’s registered or unregistered trademark…”
Competing .VIP applicant I‐Registry Ltd. has filed a legal rights objection against Donuts’ application for .vip. One of its claims is the potential for trademark infringement, centered on a trademark obtained in the European Union for the term
In the case of .academy, I’m afraid that building a brand on a generic term like Academy comes with its drawbacks…
Given how few strings were officially considered confusing by the String Similarity Panel (just 4 terms), we can expect quite a few claims here.
Here’s what it takes to win a string confusion objection:
String confusion exists where a string so nearly resembles another that it is likely to deceive or cause confusion. For a likelihood of confusion to exist, it must be probable, not merely possible that confusion will arise in the mind of the average, reasonable Internet user. Mere association, in the sense that the string brings another string to mind, is insufficient to find a likelihood of confusion.
Verisign, the registry for .com and .net, is objecting to .company and .network on string confusion grounds. The last sentence in that quote above — association vs. confusion — is questionable in this case.
It will be interesting to see what other objections were filed in this category, including for plural vs. singular versions of strings.
Limited Public Interest
A Limited Public Interest objection considers “whether the applied-for gTLD string is contrary to general principles of international law for morality and public order.”
I believe this was put in to avoid really nasty strings, such as .childporn or .kkk. The guidebook gives examples, such as declarations of violence against women, slavery and racial discrimination.
Although anyone can technically file one of these objections, the biggest filer that we know about so far is the Independent Objector. This office has a budget of $25 million, so we knew it was going to file some claims.
All of the independent objector’s public interest objections have to do with healthcare: .health, .healthcare, .hospital, .med, .medical.
With regards to .hospital, Donuts says the objection is based partly on the possibility that .hospital could lead to registrations that present inaccurate information about hospitals.
I can’t help but think the independent objector is misguided here. The internet has survived for years with second level domains related to hospitals — many of which are on .org domains — and I don’t think the public has been grossly harmed.
Let the games continue…