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The DNS top-level must remain reserved for shared domains in the public trust

  • To: gtld-guide@xxxxxxxxx
  • Subject: The DNS top-level must remain reserved for shared domains in the public trust
  • From: Werner Staub <werner@xxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Mon, 15 Dec 2008 21:50:04 +0100

In a number of instances, the Draft Applicant Guidebook and
related documents implicitly or explicitly refer to
"single-owner" or "single-registrant" or "private" TLDs.

Up to now, the public has learned that a TLD is not to be seen as
a brand but as a shared resource. Everyone knows that a TLD is
not private property. This is how clashes between TLD communities
and brands were avoided:

* In 2002, the Bank of International Settlements objected to
the creation of ".biz" because "BIZ" is one of its brands
(the German acronym if its name). ICANN overruled the objection
based on the recognition that the TLD does not reflect a brand.

* In 2004, Caterpillar Inc., the industrial equipment
manufacturer, had no objections to the creation of .cat, even
though CAT is one of Caterpillar's main brands.

If single-registrant TLDs are allowed, this will radically
change. A single-registrant TLD implies that the TLD is the
brand, because there are no other domain holders than the brand
holder itself. If single-registrant TLDs are created, the public
perception of the DNS root changes. As soon the public starts to
see the TLD as a brand, then it becomes a necessity for a brand
holder to fight any resembling TLD.

If there had been single-registrant TLDs in 2000, then the Bank
of International Settlements would have sued ICANN over .biz. And
Caterpillar, Inc. would never have tolerated the creation of

If the top level of the DNS becomes a space for brands, virtually
all other projects are squeezed out.

Allowing single-registrant TLDs does no favor to brand holders
either. At best, many will be forced into costly TLD applications,
litigation, and possibly even rebranding. Most brand holders see
no need to "own" a TLD. But if a competitor can enhance its
visibility with a private TLD, then there is other choice but to
defensively apply. The result is a violent stampede of brands
rushing into the DNS top level. What happens to the brand holders
who do not get their TLD? Would they have to consider rebranding
in order to be able to communicate via a TLD like their

Note: "single-registrant TLD" is not synonymous with "brand TLD".
There is nothing wrong with a brand-based TLD per se - so long as
it primarily serves third-party registrants. It implies that the
rights of these registrants over their names ending in the TLD
string take precedence over any brand holder's rights in it.
There could well be ".msn" or ".skype" - these are
membership-oriented brands. By allowing their users to register
in the TLD, these brand holders would increase the rights of
their users. But there must not be any brand-based TLDs where the
only conceivable use is reserved to the brand holder itself.

Werner Staub

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