1. Background and Introduction
In August 2001, GAC became aware of anomalies in registration practices during the .info sunrise period with respect to country names. Accordingly, GAC in Montevideo considered the question and published conclusions with respect to country names in its Communiqué.1 The ICANN Board supported the GAC recommendations in principle and decided that such names should be registered by the Registry to ICANN for the time being unless registered by a valid trademark holder.2 The Board has also initiated an Action Plan to address other aspects of the issue and to report before the March 2002 Accra meeting.3
These recent developments have given rise to some discussion in the ICANN Community, notably on the DNSO lists. The Names Council, on 11 October 2001 adopted a Resolution about this.4
GAC has comments and reservations about the Names Council resolution. In the interests of a transparent and informed discussion, and hopefully with a view to a resolution of any outstanding difficulties, GAC submits this commentary for the consideration of ICANN and all other parties concerned.
GAC would also recall that this is not the first time that it has addressed this issue. In its November 2000 Marina del Rey opinion on new gTLDs,5 GAC stated that:
Had this advice been taken at the time, any registrant in the new TLDs registering a name in any of the categories of names addressed by the WIPO report would have done so in the full knowledge that a policy development process arising from the WIPO report could put at risk those registrations. GAC's attention was drawn to the registration of large numbers of country names in .info during the sunrise period and upon further investigation it was evident that a large number of these registrations had not met the necessary criteria. In the circumstances, and in light of its previous statements, the GAC advised ICANN to take steps to reserve country names in .info and assign them to the corresponding governments and public authorities, at their request.
Such action provides an option, within a small part of the DNS, for many countries that have expressed serious concerns about this issue. The GAC's recommendation in Montevideo is a focused response to an issue that is of great concern to many countries.
GAC is also aware that many governments that may have a concern about the registration of their country names in .info are not yet aware of these developments. Furthermore, registration of a domain name tends to create expectations of continuing use by Registrants. In the circumstances, the GAC's advice sought to avoid conflict between such expectations and the expressed interest of a number of countries to ensure that country names are used in the interests of the general public in the country concerned.
The recent WIPO resolution6 mandates special sessions of the Standing Committee on Trademarks (SCT)7 to address each aspect of the WIPO-2 Report.8 The SCT is asked to submit a report by September 2002.
Following thorough discussion, the GAC Communiqué addresses primarily country names in .info according to ISO 3166-1.9 In developing its response, the GAC consulted with both ICANN and Afilias with a view to ensuring a feasible and workable solution.
From the point of view of a number of governments and public authorities, this is a minimum acceptable position and leaves open a range of related issues to be addressed in the future.
It follows that resolution that has been adopted by the Names Council raises several specific problems from GAC's point of view. In general, the debate within the DNSO appears not to recognise the major effort made by GAC members to circumscribe and limit their requirement for reservation of the names of countries in .info according to ISO 3166-1, as well as actively seeking cooperation with Afilias regarding the approach..
The GAC, provides the following comments in relation to aspects of the Names Council's resolution:
In response to the request to the ICANN Board:
In conclusion, the GAC would welcome further discussion with the DNSO and Names Council members in order to clarify the arguments on both parts. However, the GAC disagrees with some of the arguments and conclusions in the Names Council Resolution of 11 October 2001. GAC members will be glad to participate in the Action Plan recently announced by ICANN in this respect.
26 October 2001
6. Assembly of the Member States of the WIPO, September 24 to October 3 2001. Decision on the Report of the Second WIPO Internet Domain Name process.
7. Standing Committee on the Law of Trademarks, Industrial Designs and Geographical Indications (SCT).
8. Names of inter-governmental organisations (IGO), Geographical Names, International Non-Proprietary Names of pharmaceuticals (INNs) and Personal names.
9. As interpreted by ICANN and in official languages and in English.
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