Do yourself an enormous favour

………………………….

We are asking you to do yourself an enormous favour. It should take you less than  5 minutes (& not even that solely as an individual) and could save you thousands of pounds (or possibly more), a significant amount of stress and possibly even involvement in litigation.

The 3 W’s:

  1. WHEN? NOW (more than half of the total 99  days have now passed and counting)
  2. WHY?
  3. WHAT? Complete your details on the About You section, tick the No box in response to question 8a  and submit/send your response to Nominet.

You are responding to their “Consultation on a new .uk domain name service” as “a stakeholder1

Question 8a is “Do you agree that a new direct.uk service should adopt a phased release of domain names with the hierarchy outlined above i.e Registered Rights, Unregistered Rights, Landrush, General Availability?

We think the easiest way to respond is to complete and submit Nominet’s online form:

  • Click “Next” 6 times to get to section F. About you (40% complete)
  • Complete the appropriate details, then
  • Click “Next” 5 times to get to section L. Phased Release and Rights Management (73% complete) and
  • Tick “No” in response to question 8a then
  • Click “Next” 3 times and finally
  • Click “Submit” (100% complete)

(We urge you to retain a hard copy of your response. Print each page you have completed/want to retain.)

If you want to keep this window open simply copy & paste the following address into another tab on your browser http://www.surveygizmo.com/s3/1025946/Nominet-Consultation-On-a-New-UK-Name-Service

Click to enlarge

There are other ways to obtain & complete your response to  the consultation as explained by Nominet. Our graphic explains how we think their electronic Pdf works (e & o e) but it’s a bit involved. Final submission by email is through Adobe’s EchoSign service

Neither of these are as lengthy as our descriptions! The retention of a copy of your response is possibly the most time consuming element.

 

 

WHY?
We were going to embark on a rather lengthy analysis of all the proposals and the arguments for and against but as many others have done so, or are likely in the process of doing so, we will keep it comparatively short and attempt to cut to the quick.

We strongly believe:

  • Much wider engagement between, and communication with existing stakeholders, in particular domain name owners and internet users in this process is essential. The ramifications in particular for small businesses so far have been severely underestimated.
  • Preferential rights being given to a registered trademark holder over those of an identically named existing .co.uk (or.org.uk or .net.uk etc) domain name owner is wholly unacceptable and unjustifiable.
  • All 10.2 million.uk existing domains have a value which has already been reduced simply by the announcement of this consultation.
  • These domain name owners have a right to the identically named .uk domain name which could at least maintain (and possibly increase) their Intellectual Property/Brand’s value.

We also have concerns about Nominet’s ability to implement these proposals seamlessly.

Engagement between, and communication with stakeholders

We attended the direct.uk stakeholder roundtable meeting with Nominet in Cardiff last week (November 14). Three other stakeholders attended!

Nominet indicated that at that time NO stakeholders had expressed an interest in attending the proposed meeting in Northern Ireland.

They also told us that they had received between 300 and 400 responses to their consultation.

Nominet and their registrars have an enviable database for their stakeholder community – we believe that they all should be actively encouraged to participate and that Nominet has an obligation to contact them individually.

Domain name owners3 v’s Registered Trademark owners3

In the UK Trademark system there are 45 differing categories of trade and services so theoretically the same mark could have at least 45 registered trademarks.

When we recently searched the IPO trademark database the following number of trademarks for these words/initials/numbers were revealed:

  • Lion – 73
  • AA – 72
  • 3 – 54
  • IT – 42

So offering any rights to registered trademark owners on a simplistic name/word/initial/number only basis creates competition, and in this case competition leads to auction, and auctions lead to …..

On a simple numbers basis in 2007 there were 419,527 UK registered trademarks (we currently have a Freedom of Information (FOI) request for some more up to date numbers with the IPO). All of these are not words of course many are designs. The Eu registry is a little friendlier and on a search last week 709,032 registered trademarks existed. Of their total cumulative applications figure just over 60% have been for names/words. So we estimate that there could be around a maximum of say 700,000 (419527+709032=1128550×60%) owners of marks eligible for preferential treatment under Nominet’s proposals.

So a community of 700k of whom possibly a third or so are registered under the UK system is to be given preference over an acknowledged stakeholder community of 10.2 million domain owners. This is clearly nonsensical.

Trademarks like other assets, tangible or intangible, can be acquired and in fact traded. It is not unknown for speculative applicants to acquire on occasion multiple registered trademarks for these purposes. This has happened before and we are confident it will happen again.

Nominet

An IP partner in one of the legal 500 firms once indicated to us that Nominet’s Dispute Resolution Service was sound but otherwise well they weren’t ……..

We’re beginning to, sort of, understand.

They certainly continue with their rather strange structure. They are NOT repeat NOT a charity. Nominet UK is (as they accurately describe themselves in the direct.uk press release) a  “not-for-profit organisation”. They are a Private Limited by  Guarantee Company with no Share Capital with an exemption from using the Limited suffix

Instead of shareholders they have 2,860 members at  September 30 who have, inter alia powers to appoint a number of directors to the Nominet board. The members, who include, Webfusion Ltd, I & I Internet AG, Key-Systems Gmbh Register.com Inc, Namesco Ltd and Yell Ltd are mainly registrars and they have a somewhat complex voting system amongst themselves based on the number of  domain name registrations maintained by them. Unfair but it’s a sort of commercial block vote and elsewhere it has been calculated that eg Webfusion Ltd has over 20% of the members voting powers.

Incidentally in Cardiff  Jeff Blowers Nominet’s Director of (ie he’s not a main board Director) Legal and Policy indicated that it would be the Board who made the decision on the direct.uk proposals.

Nominet are not a large organisation. They have under 100 employees and the sheer scale of what they are proposing gives us cause for concern. Sort of reminds us of the new gTLD’s scenario!

In their proposals they indicate they want “…. to build on the sunrise process established in the .uk short domains release….” Quite so. That issue involved in total 2,837 specific domain names. There were about 700 different names (ie there were .co.uk, .org.uk, .me.uk and .net.uk third level domains on offer). We know that they wrote to a large number of registered trademark owners both at the consultation stage hmmmmm and also when the release plan was issued. Have they considered contacting the likely 700,000 trademark holders mentioned above? Could they cope with a sunrise process that might involve over 10,000,000 applicants?

The following are VERY anecdotal but:

  • On 1 October they launched their new website initially they got their own phone number wrong which we pointed out to them (we kept a screenshot somewhere)
  • There was a link in their direct.uk press release to a policy section which went to a page not found error message
  • There remain areas which still require updating
  • Look at the referencing in their online form and pdf form for this consultation G in the online form is Organisation Type which elsewhere is included in the About You section F.
  • In their online form as far as we can ascertain the only fields required to be completed are the two parts of section G Organisation Type.

Bottom lining it we think there could be disruption in the process proposed.

1 “…… this consultation is an opportunity for stakeholders including registrants, registrars internet users business and industry, public authorities civil society, consumer organisations and any others….”

2 Nominet in their October Communique indicated that there were 10,243,649 domain names on their register

3 We that is The Information I Ltd (who operate this site) are both the domain name owners of I.co.uk and I.org.uk as well as owning a registered Trademark for the letter “I” which we originally registered in 2001.

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