Tuesday, 18 March 2008

Domain tasting: why are IP owners silent?

ICANN's Generic Names Supporting Organization (GNSO) is soliciting comments on its draft resolution to curb the much-criticised practice of domain tasting -- which leverages the value of many brand-based domain names for the benefit of third parties seeking to cash in on them. According to the GNSO:

"The GNSO Council is considering the issue of "domain tasting", a term used to describe the case when someone registers a domain name and then tests to see if the name has sufficient traffic to provide more income than the annual registration fee (usually through pay-per-click advertising). If the name is deemed sufficiently profitable, it is kept.

If not, the current "add grace period" (AGP) - where domains can be returned within five days without cost - is used to return the domain at no net cost to the registrant. Recently there has been a significant increase in the number of domains registered and returned within the AGP. ICANN staff prepared an Issues Report in June 2007 and subsequently a GNSO working group published an Outcomes Report in October 2007. The GNSO Council decided on 31 October 2007 to launch a policy development process (PDP) on domain tasting. An Initial Report was produced for public comment, outlining the policy development process, possible actions that might be taken, and the arguments put forward for and against such actions. Public comments were incorporated into a draft Final Report (posted 8 February) for GNSO Council review and action.

Members of the Council subsequently drafted this motion to curb domain tasting. It would prohibit any gTLD operator that has implemented an add grace period from offering a refund for any domain name deleted during the AGP that exceeds 10% of its net new registrations in that month, or fifty domain names, whichever is greater. An exemption may be sought for a particular month, upon the documented showing of extraordinary circumstances, as detailed in the motion.

The GNSO Council will consider public comments and constituency impact statements regarding the draft motion and incorporate them into a further draft for Council consideration at its scheduled 17 April meeting.

Please submit comments to: domain-tasting-motion@icann.org. Comments may be viewed at: http://forum.icann.org/lists/domain-tasting-motion/".
At the time of posting this blog, only three comments (see here for current tally) have been submitted to the GNSO - and nothing has been heard from IP owners, organisations representing their interests or professional advisers whose clients' interests are adversely threatened by this practice. Readers of this blog are urged either to submit something themselves or to forward it to someone else who might be persuaded to do so, otherwise the GNSO will believe that this is not an IP issue at all. The closing date for submitting comments is 28 March 2008 -- that's just a week away.

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