Did ICANN Just Shorten the Deadline for Filing New gTLD Objections?

By Doug Isenberg What is the deadline for filing a formal objection to a gTLD application?

The answer, it seems -- as with so many things related to the new domain name process -- is unclear.

On the one hand, ICANN's Applicant Guidebook says: "The objection filing period will open after ICANN posts the list of complete applications... and will last for approximately 7 months. The objection filing period will close following the end of the Initial Evaluation period... with a two-week window of time between the posting of the Initial Evaluation results and the close of the objection filing period."  (Subsection, version dated June 4, 2012, emphasis added.)

On the other hand, in a recent webinar (August 9, 2012), ICANN Senior Vice President Kurt Pritz said the objection period would close "around January 12, 2013" (seven months after the applications were revealed) without regard to the Guidebook's reference to the additional "two-week window of time." Specifically, he said: "We didn’t think that was fair to the applicant to not know there is an objection out there."

At first glance, the two-week window may not sound very important, but it is. Here's why: If an application fails to pass ICANN's evaluation, then filing a formal objection would be unnecessary.

In other words, because filing a formal objection is a complicated, time-consuming and expensive process, a prudent potential objector might wait for the Initial Evaluation results to decide whether it should file an objection. (Although, admittedly, it would be important to prepare for filing an objection sooner rather than later.) But, if the January 12 deadline is fixed, then waiting for those results (which are not expected until June 2013) would be impossible.

In any event, the discrepancy between the Guidebook and Pritz's comments should leave everyone confused. Interestingly, ICANN's just-released "milestone timeline" fails to note the January 12 deadline, and the International Chamber of Commerce (which will handle "community objections" -- perhaps the most active type of objection we will see) says only that "the Objection Period will start on 13 June 2012," without reference to a deadline.

ICANN should clarify this important issue immediately, in writing, by affirming its commitment to the two-week window described in the Guidebook.

(Hat tip: Elisa Cooper of MarkMonitor.)