UN writes to GAC and GNSO on IGO names protection

Stphane Van Gelder

As GNSO Chair, I am in receipt today of a letter from the United Nations. The letter, dated 26 July, is also addressed to Heather Dryden, Chair of ICANN's Governmental Advisory Committee. An excerpt from the letter reads as follows:

Dear Ms. Dryden and Mr. Van Gelder

I would like to bring to your attention the letter of 11 July 2012 (…) from the United Nations to Mr. Akram Atallah, Acting Chief Executive Officer of (…) ICANN.

This letter, sent by Mr. Thomas Stelzer, Secretary of the Chief Executives Board for Coordination at the United Nations, on behalf of the UN Secretary-General, expresses the deep concern of Intergovernmental Organizations (IGOs) that ICANN has, to date, not accepted the general principle of an exclusion of IGO names and acronyms in the Domain Name System, in the context of the general Top Level Domain Name (gTLD) expansion plan…

As a reminder, at the behest of the ICANN Board, the GNSO did undertake policy work on the protection of two specific organizations, the Red Cross (RC) and the Olympic Committee (IOC). These had already been afforded special protection by the Board as part of its 20 June 2011 resolution greenlighting the new gTLD program.

The GNSO's work culminated in a recommendation being sent to the Board improving the protection level which had previously been hastily added as part of that 20 June Board resolution.

The GNSO recommended:

  • that the IOC and RC be allowed to register the protected names as gTLDs (the Board text excluded all applicants, including them);

  • that any string requested by any applicant as part of the new gTLD program be evaluated against the risk of it being confusingly similar to the protected IOC/RC names;

  • that the IOC/RC protections should extend to as many language versions of the names as feasibly possible;

  • that the protections apply to all future rounds of gTLD applications, not just the first.

The Board opted not to implement those recommendations and left the new gTLD Applicant Guidebook – the program's rulebook – unchanged as far as this issue was concerned. Nor were any other organizations afforded any protection.

It now remains to be seen what reaction this new letter from the UN on the more general issue of IGO name protection will elicit from the ICANN leadership…

Written by Stéphane Van Gelder, Registry Relations and Strategy Director, NetNames
02 August 2012