It’s difficult to predict the outcome of community objections.
As of yesterday the International Chamber of Commerce had published 21 community objection decisions. Objectors have won just four of the cases.
Time for new top level domain applicants to rejoice? Hardly.
Much like string confusion objections, community objection decisions and how panelists arrive at their decisions are proving to be inconsistent.
Community objections are certainly more complicated than string confusion objections. Pleadings and arguments are much more detailed. So you can make the argument that you shouldn’t be able to predict the outcome of a community objection as easily as a string confusion objection.
But some are real head-scratchers, such as the .sport decision. “Sport” is a clearly defined community? (Much less one that will be significantly harmed by the introduction of a .sport TLD?)
Although most panelists have sided with the applicants, they have also tended to use a very wide definition of what a community is in their decisions. Much like with string confusion objections, panelists are writing that the guidebook provides them little guidance on what a community is, and thus they need to look elsewhere for the meaning.
That “elsewhere” is often the Governmental Advisory Committee. Panelists seem to treat GAC deliberations and recommendations as gospel, which sort of makes sense if you come from the panelist’s legal world. Without background knowledge of ICANN, they aren’t aware that it’s just one committee (albeit with a lot of influence), and that it only provides recommendations – not determinations.
In some cases, perhaps panelists are throwing the objectors a bone by finding a clearly delineated community after they’ve already decided the case will fail on other grounds. It may be easier to accept there’s a community if the end result will be the same.
Much like with string confusion objections, the uncertainty is bad for both objectors and applicants.