Canada Responds to ICANN on Controversial .SUCKS New gTLD

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The Government of Canada has responded to ICANN regarding the controversial .SUCKS new gTLD rollout. In a letter to ICANN dated June 9 (PDF), Industry Canada Deputy Minister James Knubley said that Canadian law includes trademark protections, and those laws apply to the new gTLD as much as, and in the same way, as they apply to everything else.

Less than a page long, the letter is strikingly short compared with FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez’ response, and could be considered terse in its matter-of-fact statement of the obvious. Despite those differences, the gist is basically the same: the issue is not relevant to the jurisdiction of these governmental bodies.

“Canada has intellectual property, competition, criminal law and other relevant legal frameworks in place to protect trademark owners, competitors, consumers and individuals,” Knubley writes. “These frameworks are equally applicable to online activities and can provide recourse, for example, to trademark owners concerned about the use of the dotSucks domain, provided that trademark owners can demonstrate that the use of dotSucks domains infringes on a trademark. Intellectual property rights are privately held and are settled privately in the courts.”

The FTC response penned by Ramirez also refers to other government bodies and methods that might help, or might have helped had they been previously heeded. The Canadian response differs largely in the different relationship between ICANN and the two governments. That relationship may soon be changing, as the domain overseer is due to be transferred to international control next year.

ICANN could also soon be entrusted with new authorities relating to DNS root zone, IP addressing and protocol parameters. If it is seen as bungling its traditional responsibilities, that may not happen.

Both responses implicitly recommend that trademark owners sue abusive domain registrants, but such legal challenges could face numerous difficulties. For instance, if a .sucks website does not represent itself as the property of named brand or sell anything, the usage of the trademark could be legal. Further, companies seeking to protect their reputation online may be adverse to the publicity which could arise from taking dissatisfied former customers to court.

The extended sunrise period for the domain, during which premium domains are priced at $2,499 a year, ends on June 19.

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