A domain name investor has sued ICANN (pdf), arguing that the investor should have exclusive rights to many single-character .com domain names.
VerandaGlobal.com, d/b/a First Place Internet, filed the suit in the Superior Court of California, County of Los Angeles in August. ICANN has published the suit and its response.
First Place registered a number of domain names in Verisign’s transliterations of .com domains in Katakana, Hangul, and Hebrew.
When Verisign planned its launch of transliterations of .com and .net, it told registrants that if they owned IDN(.)com, they’d be the only ones with rights to register the same IDN.IDN-as-transliteration, and vice versa.
So First Place registered the names in various IDN extensions and now argues it should get the equivalent domains in .com.
ICANN has reserved nearly all single letter .com and .net domains from registration, save for some domains registered before this policy was put in place.
In 2013, Verisign sent a letter to ICANN stating its cross-TLD registration policy for transliterations. As is customary, ICANN published the letter on its website. First Place argues:
ICANN published VeriSign’s July 11, 2013 Letter without objection thereby accepting VeriSign’s planned IDN implementation strategy…
…Any visitor, including Plaintiffs, to the ICANN web page, would reasonably conclude VeriSign’s IDN implementation strategy of ICANN-Adopted Policy and illustrations therein had full ICANN approval and sanction. Plaintiffs did review this ICANN web page and did affirmatively rely upon the representations and policies contained in the Letter.
ICANN responded to the lawsuit with a Notice of Demurrer (pdf), which I’d sum up as saying you’ve got to be joking.
The non-profit domain overseer claims there’s no contract between it and First Place Internet. Regarding Verisign’s letter on its website, ICANN states:
…Plaintiffs make a convoluted argument that ICANN somehow ratified and/or adopted the contents of a third-party letter that ICANN received in 2013 simply by posting it on ICANN’s Correspondence webpage. Yet, Plaintiffs’ Complaint neglects to mention that this letter was posted on ICANN’s website along with the thousands of other letters ICANN has received, which is ICANN’s standard practice in order to be open and transparent with the public. Posting a letter from a third party on its website cannot possibly result in ICANN adopting a “policy” or being in a contractual relationship with some other entity or even agreeing with the content of the letter. In sum, even if Plaintiffs were permitted to amend their Complaint, they will never be able to state a cause of action against ICANN because ICANN has no relationship with Plaintiffs.
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