Industry, government meet to prevent top-level domain fraud

Melbourne IT gathered industry and government officials in Washington to discuss anti-fraud proposal.

Melbourne IT reported progress on a proposal to strengthen trademark protections for organisations as ICANN gets set to roll out more than 1000 new generic top-level domains (gTLDs).

Melbourne IT hosted on 18 September a meeting with industry and government officials in Washington, DC. The domain name registration company said it hopes to conduct a follow-up meeting in Toronto to solidify areas of agreement.

Melbourne IT and others in the industry seek to stop bad actors from registering misleading and trademark-infringing gTLDs. For example, a fraudster could set up a domain like redcross.charity to solicit donations. Melbourne IT last month released a draft proposal that would allow organisations to register brands to a list of “high at-risk marks” (HARMs) and pay a one-time reservation fee preventing others from using the brand in their Web address, even with a gTLD that has not been registered.

The Washington meeting included representatives from new gTLD applicants, registry operators, ICANN-accredited registrars, industry associations and law firms that manage legal rights infringements. A Melbourne IT spokesperson said attendees included officials from ICANN, the US National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), US Patent and Trademark Office, International Trademark Association, AT&T, Google, Microsoft Neustar, Verisign, the Public Interest Registry and several law firms.

“There was generally a willingness to work together to improve the system,” according to a discussion summary released by Melbourne IT. “Among the various proposals, there are some common elements that can form the basis of a solution supported by the majority of stakeholders ... The solution can be implemented voluntarily by many of the new gTLD registry operators, and can form the basis for a policy development process to become applicable to both new gTLDs and existing gTLDs.”

Melbourne IT reported “general support in principle” at the meeting for setting up a reservation system through which a trademark holder can reserve a high-risk mark from registration. There was also support for extending the trademark claims process indefinitely during operation of a gTLD, and including combinations of exact matches and related industry terms in the proposed trademark clearinghouse and rights protection mechanisms.

Specific proposals discussed at the meeting included:

  • Making the trademark claims process part of registration
  • Requiring email authentication of registrants and centralisation of other forms of validation
  • Extending trademark registrations to protect beyond exact matches to protect names like “PayPalpayments” in addition to PayPal
  • Faster suspension of fraudulent domains used for phishing: “In minutes, not hours or days.”

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