June 17, 2020
Brian Winterfeldt and Griffin Barnett
Client Alert
Client Alert
Client Alert

Key Topics to Follow During the ICANN 68 Virtual Policy Forum

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The 68th international meeting of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) commences on June 22, and is scheduled to run through June 25.  Although the meeting was originally slated to take place in person in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, ICANN decided not to hold an in-person meeting in light of continuing global health concerns relating to the COVID-19 pandemic.  However, the meeting will still take place in an all-virtual capacity, with a slightly scaled-back meeting schedule. Please note that, out of respect for the original geographical location of the meeting, all key sessions identified below reflect local time in Kuala Lumpur (even though the meeting will take place solely through remote meeting rooms), and are subject to change.

Despite the continuation of the virtual meeting format, we anticipate a number of important policy developments to take place during the meeting. This advisory highlights several high-profile topics that have emerged amid community discussions in the lead-up to this meeting, and which we anticipate will command the majority of attention during ICANN 68. Key ICANN 68 sessions relating to each high-profile topic are also listed below. Please note that, due to the Policy Forum format for this particular ICANN meeting, sessions generally focus on cross-community discussions and working group activities rather than meetings of individual constituencies and stakeholder groups, although the GAC and GNSO will each be holding a series of sessions.

Domain Name Abuse and Contractual Compliance

In the wake of growing concerns around DNS abuse in light of an uptick in online fraud and other cybercrimes surrounding COVID-19, ICANN 68 features a heavy slate of sessions dedicated to discussions of DNS abuse and related matters.  Indeed, this issue seems the be the top focus of this ICANN policy forum, as all parts of the Internet ecosystem are searching for system-wide solutions to this issue, which has received renewed and much broader than usual attention given its relation to the general global pandemic crisis.  

In recent weeks and months, many different stakeholders have been holding their own virtual meetings and discussions on the issue of DNS abuse, including a presentation by domain name registry operators and registrars on data they are seeing and voluntary responsive measures they have been implementing.  Many from the intellectual property and cybersecurity communities have also been holding similar discussions evaluating DNS abuse data and trends and considering further solutions relevant to the ICANN multi-stakeholder model as well as solutions beyond the ICANN ecosystem including national legislative efforts to deal with COVID-19 related scams and other online fraud.  There has also been a reported uptick in trademark infringement and cybersquatting in the first half of 2020, with the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) reporting its highest-ever number of UDRP cases filed through the first half of the year, on pace to beat the UDRP filing record set in 2019.  Many of these filings relate specifically to domain names referencing COVID-19 or coronavirus along with brand identifiers.  

In addition to broad reviews of DNS abuse issues, there will also be important discussions at ICANN 68 concerning the ICANN Public Interest Commitments (PICs) and Public Interest Commitments Dispute Resolution Procedure (PICDRP) which are intended to ensure that gTLD registries mitigate various types of online harms including phishing, fraud, malware, trademark and copyright infringement, counterfeiting and piracy.  A member of the Winterfeldt IP Group team will be participating in the ICANN 68 At-Large panel on PICs and the PICDRP taking place on Monday June 22 from 3 – 4:30 pm Kuala Lumpur local time (UTC+8) given our prior arbitration of a PICDRP complaint against the .FEEDBACK registry for various abusive practices harming brand owners and consumers.

Key ICANN 68 Sessions

  • GAC DNS Abuse Mitigation (with Public Safety Working Group) (1 of 2) (Monday, June 22, 11:30 am – 12:30 pm)
  • Plenary Session: DNS Abuse and Malicious Registrations During COVID-19 (Monday, June 22, 1 – 2:30 pm)
  • At-Large: PICs and PICDRP - What's the Right Path Forward? (Monday June, 22, 3 – 4:30 pm)
  • Plenary Session: The DNS and the Internet of Things: Opportunities, Risks, and Challenges (Tuesday, June 23, 3 – 4:30 pm)
  • GAC DNS Abuse Mitigation (with Public Safety Working Group) (2 of 2) (Tuesday, June 23, 4:30 – 5:30 pm)
  • At-Large Policy Session: DNS Abuse - Setting an Acceptable Threshold (Wednesday, June 24, 10 – 11:30 am)

Access to Domain Name Registration Data

The ICANN Expedited Policy Development Process (EPDP) Phase 2 Working Group continues to try to finalize a proposed standardized system for access/disclosure to non-public domain name registration data (WHOIS data), following the global redaction of most public WHOIS data in 2018 in response to the GDPR.  The EPDP team held a public comment period on its Initial Report for Phase 2 from late March to early May 2020, and since then has been evaluating input received from the broader community of Internet stakeholders, including brand owners. The EPDP team is aiming to complete its Final Report by the end of June 2020, although it currently has no public meetings scheduled to take place during ICANN 68.  However, it continues to hold meetings twice per week in the run-up to ICANN 68.  

In addition to trying to finalize the disclosure system, the EPDP team is also working to finalize recommendations regarding other overarching issues deferred from EPDP Phase 1.  These other key issues include whether to require distinct treatment of data of natural persons versus that of legal entities (whose data is not subject to GDPR) and whether additional WHOIS data fields could once again be made public because they do not constitute personally identifiable information under the GDPR (such as the registrant city field).  Some of these issues are being developed in conjunction with the EPDP Phase 1 implementation process, which team will be meeting once again during ICANN 68.  These issues remain top priorities for brand owners, so it will be important to track further developments heading into and during ICANN 68.

Key ICANN 68 Sessions

  • GNSO Registration Data Policy IRT Meeting (Monday, June 22, 8:30 – 9:30 am)
  • GAC WHOIS and Data Protection Policies Discussion (Tuesday, June 23, 11:30 am – 12:30 pm)

Rights Protection Mechanism Review

After over four years, the Rights Protection Mechanism (RPM) Review Working Group is at long last entering the final stages of its Phase 1 efforts, evaluating and preparing possible recommended changes to the New gTLD Program RPMs: the Trademark Post-Delegation Dispute Resolution Procedure (PDDRP); Trademark Clearinghouse (TMCH); Sunrise; Trademark Claims; and Uniform Rapid Suspension System (URS).  The Working Group published its Phase 1 Initial Report for public comment on March 18, 2020, which comment period concluded in early May 2020.  Shortly thereafter, the Working Group began its review and consideration of public comments to determine whether it would make modifications to its initial set of recommendations and conclusions, and identify any other proposals that may merit being solidified into final recommendations.  

The Working Group will likely continue to evaluate public comments on these issues heading into and during ICANN 68, with an eye toward completing this public comment review and analysis process shortly after ICANN 68.  It still is on track to complete a Final Report on Phase 1 RPMs by September 2020, after which time it will gear up to begin the much-anticipated Phase 2 focusing exclusively on the all-important UDRP.

Key ICANN 68 Sessions

  • Rights Protection Mechanism Review Working Group Meeting (Tuesday, June 23, 10:30 am – 12 pm)
  • GAC Discussions on RPM and WS2 Recommendations (Wednesday, June 24, 1 – 2:30 pm)

New gTLD Subsequent Procedures Issues

The New gTLD Subsequent Procedures Working Group has been evaluating the 2012 round of new gTLDs and developing policy recommendations and implementation guidance for future new gTLDs.  The group remains in the process of finalizing its draft Final Report, including recommendations on some fairly contentious issues with implications for brand owners including “closed generic” gTLDs, possible fast-track applications and reduced fees for .Brand applicants, and improvements to string confusion and other new gTLD objection procedures to protect existing trademark rights against use by a third-party as a new gTLD string.  

The Working Group will continue its efforts to complete its draft Final Report heading into and during ICANN 68, so it will be important to continue to participate in those discussions.  We still anticipate a draft Final Report for public comment by the end of July or early August 2020, with the aim of concluding this policy development process by the end of the year.

Key ICANN 68 Sessions

  • GAC Subsequent Rounds Discussion (1 of 3) (Monday, June 22, 4:30 – 5:30 pm)
  • New gTLD Subsequent Procedures Working Group Meeting  (Tuesday, June 23, 8:30 – 10 am)
  • GAC Subsequent Rounds Discussion (2 of 3) (Tuesday, June 23, 3 – 4 pm)
  • GAC Subsequent Rounds Discussion (3 of 3) (Wednesday, June 24, 11:30 am – 12:30 pm)

We hope that this advisory provides you with unique insight into several major areas of impact and interest for brand owners in the Internet policy space, and highlights why brand owners should be involved in and aware of ICANN policy-making efforts. The ICANN 68 meeting will take place from June 22 – 25, 2020. A link to the full meeting schedule is available here.

For more information about these topics, please contact any of the following team members. In addition, our team will be available to provide real-time, daily coverage of key meeting sessions. If you are interested in receiving our Eye on ICANN reports, or in-depth coverage of particular sessions of interest, please contact us at

Brian Winterfeldt, brian@winterfeldt.law, +1 202 903 4422

Griffin Barnett, griffin@winterfeldt.law, +1 202 759 5836

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