Company’s CEO disclosed creating an industry group as part of monetizing its patent portfolio.
Verisign recently announced plans to organize a group called Registration Operations Association (ROA) to discuss technical aspects of domain name registration.
A three part blog series proposing the group, penned by Verisign Senior Director Scott Hollenbeck, focuses on Extensible Provisioning Protocol (EPP) and the challenges of registrars working with different EPP extensions created by the growing number of registries.
Parties in the domain registration ecosystem might be cool to Verisign’s overtures. After all, they’re still stinging from Verisign’s efforts to slow down the introduction of new top level domain names.
Also, given that registrars have no problems with Verisign’s own EPP, they might question what Verisign seeks to gain by helping other registries.
The answer might be found in Verisign’s second quarter investor call in July. Verisign CEO James Bidzos said:
Regarding our patent program, we continue to receive inquiries from registry operators about using some elements of our patented registry technology. We’re also exploring new ways of bringing the industry together to coordinate ongoing development of registry operations.
Verisign has been talking about monetizing its patent portfolio for nearly two years. It has a number of patents and patents pending related to numerous aspects of the domain business, including EPP.
Bidzos’ reference to “bringing the industry together to coordinate…registry operations” sounds almost exactly like ROA.
It would seem that Verisign’s goal for ROA might be to suggest its own patented standards and extract a fee for them.
Verisign essentially declined a phone interview for this story by stating that it would probably take a week to make the appropriate people available. This made it easier for the company to ignore the patent issue in my written questions.
I pointed out Bidzos’ patent comment and asked, “Given that Verisign plans to monetize its intellectual property, and your CEO mentioned bringing together registry operators in the same context, couldn’t this association be seen as merely a way to pull registries in to Verisign’s standards to extract licensing fees?”
Verisign CTO Burt Kaliski responded:
As we have previously stated in our blog posts, the proposed Registration Operations Association is about bringing the industry together to coordinate ongoing development and interoperability of technical aspects of domain name registration operations, including the Extensible Provisioning Protocol (EPP). Today, there is no ongoing cross-industry forum for the discussion of these technical topics. We believe that the proposed Registration Operations Association will help address this need.
Just last week, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office published another Verisign patent application, this one for “Systems and Methods for Multi-Tenant Generic Top Level Domain Deployment”.
This particular patent application cross-references a slew of other Verisign patent applications, many of them related to EPP:
This application claims priority to U.S. Provisional Patent Application No. 61/791.919, titled “SYSTEMS AND METHODS FOR MULTI-TENANT GENERIC TOP LEVEL DOMAIN DEPLOYMENT, filed on Mar. 15, 2013, hereby incorporated by reference. This application is related to U.S. patent application Ser. No. 13/835,674 filed Mar. 15, 2013, entitled “METHOD AND SYSTEM FOR INTELLIGENT MANY-TO-MANY SERVICE ROUTING OVER EPP,” pending, and assigned or under obligation of assignment to the same entity as this application and hereby expressly incorporated by reference in its entirety. U.S. patent application Ser. No. 13/835,674 filed Mar. 15, 2013 entitled “METHOD AND SYSTEM FOR INTELLIGENT MANY-TO-MANY SERVICE ROUTING OVER EPP,” is a continuation-in-part of and claims priority to U.S. patent application Ser. No. 13/681,330, filed Nov. 19, 2012, entitled “Method and System for Intelligent Routing of Requests over EPP,” …
Verisign will likely face quite a bit of resistance to its efforts to lead the creation of a technical standards group. Companies are still upset over the company’s push to delay new TLDs, and will certainly question the company’s motives for organizing ROA.
At a minimum, I would expect domain companies to push for FRAND terms in the bylaws of any such group.