FTC to ICANN: We Told You .SUCKS Was a Bad Idea

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The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has responded to a letter from ICANN requesting the regulatory body examine the legality of the rollout of the .SUCKS new gTLD. The response (PDF) was written by FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez, and instead of ruling if any laws or regulations had been broken, it offers several recommendations for ICANN to ensure better protection of intellectual property owners’ rights.

Companies are mad at ICANN for allowing registrar tactics they say are coercive and predatory. ICANN is at odds with Vox Populi for letting .sucks threaten brands by employing a steeply declining pricing scheme, and asked the FTC for help. Now it seems that the FTC, judging by its response, is unhappy with ICANN for not listening to its warnings in the first place.

“Prior to the launch of its new gTLD program, the Commission provided ICANN with policy recommendations in which we highlighted a range of issues implicated by the impending rollout of new gTLDs, including the increased risk of consumer confusion,” said Ramirez.

She also writes that the problem “posed regarding Vox Populi’s .sucks rollout raise important and broader consumer protection issues that the Commission previously highlighted prior to the launch of ICANN’s new gTLD program.”

The letter includes four recommendations. The FTC says that requiring registrants to be clearly identified on the site would reduce consumer confusion. It suggests revisiting the protection mechanisms, such as the Trademark Clearinghouse, and the Registry Agreement, and acknowledges that the spirit of the protections may have been violated. The third recommendation urges action to protect “highly regulated industries.”

“I am particularly troubled by the ICANN Board’s rejection of repeated Government Advisory Committee (“GAC”) advice to verify the credentials of sensitive domains in highly regulated markets,” Ramirez said.

The last recommendation is that ICANN consult with the GAC’s Public Safety Working Group.

The Register reports that ICANN forced Vox Populi to pay $1 million owed to it by companies previously owned and shuttered by its parent company Momentous, and cites industry concern over ICANN’s own practices.

For its part, Vox Populi has extended the sunrise period to June 19, with general availability beginning June 21, saying “even though the launch of the new dotSucks domain names has received overwhelming media and market attention, we have discovered that far too many intellectual property lawyers, company executives and brand owners were unaware of the registry, the availability of its names or the Trademark Clearinghouse.”

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