VeriSign on losing end of appeal over registry contract.
The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has reversed a lower court decision throwing out an antitrust lawsuit by Coalition for ICANN Transparency (CFIT) against VeriSign (NASDAQ: VRSN). This means an antitrust lawsuit against VeriSign (NASDAQ: VRSN) can go forward, which may eventually mean lower .com domain name registration prices.
The plaintiff’s counsel was domain name attorney Bret A. Fausett of Adorno Yoss Alvarado & Smith. Fausett mentioned the lawsuit and pending appeal outcome during a Q&A session at DomainFest Global in Los Angeles earlier this year.
Reached by phone this afternoon, Fausett said the ultimate outcome could be a rollback in .com registration prices through a competitive bidding process, conceivably to just a few dollars per year. “For domainers, I’ve got to think that people are wondering ‘how fast can we get there?'” said Fausett. The case will likely now go back to trial.
The lawsuit made a number of claims, but chief among them was that VeriSign’s contract to provide .com domain names was anti-competitive. There was no open bidding process and the presumptive right of renewal means it will never be subject to competition.
The timing of this appeals court decision is critical, as one of the questions asked during the ICANN hearings on capitol hill yesterday was if the contract between ICANN and VeriSign was transparent. ICANN President & CEO Paul Twomey said it was because it was a matter of public record. Go Daddy General Counsel Christine Jones pointed out that the contract is public record, but the matter in which it was negotiated was not.
VeriSign has a number of appeal options that could delay a court date and thus any changes to .com registry pricing or management.