Dear ICANN: What is the Real Deadline for Filing New gTLD Objections?

By Doug Isenberg I've addressed this topic before, but the issue remains unclear while the urgency is growing and the clock is ticking: What is the real deadline for filing an objection to a new gTLD application?

Looking only at ICANN's microsite, the answer would seem obvious: March 13, 2013, as shown in the screenshot below:

objection deadline

But looking deeper, the answer gets more complicated. Because the Applicant Guidebook says that the objection period "will last for approximately 7 months," the deadline originally appeared to be January 13, 2013 (seven months after "reveal day" on June 13, 2012), though it is clear that ICANN has since extended this date by two months.

Still, the Guidebook also says that there will be "a two-week window of time between the posting of the Initial Evaluation results and the close of the objection filing period" -- an apparent indication that the true deadline is a relative, not fixed, date (because it is far from certain when the initial evaluation results will actually be posted, though it will clearly be after March 13).

This uncertainty has led to some interesting posturing. For example:

  • In a letter (4-page PDF) on September 5, 2012, ICANN's Business Constituency wrote that a fixed deadline would require objectors "to file objections without knowing whether an application has even passed Initial Evaluation. This has cost and resource implications to those who may need to raise objections."
  • The New gTLD Applicant Group wrote (3-page PDF) on December 21, 2012: "The community has had plenty of time to consider and prepare for objections. The March 13, 2013, deadline must be final, as any further delay would cause material harm to applicants."
  • In a recent webinar, an ICANN slide (65-page PDF) stated that that the "Objection period [had been] extended to 13 March 2013" -- without any reference to the two-week window.

Although ICANN briefly addressed the issue of the "two-week window" at least once before, the answer from Kurt Pritz at a webinar on August 9, 2012, was incomplete and now seems dated. (Not to mention that it disregards the Applicant Guidebook's plain language.)

So, ICANN should immediately clear up the lingering confusion, especially as would-be objectors get close to filing complaints that could entail tens of thousands of dollars in filing fees, administrative fees and legal fees.

Hopefully, ICANN won't wait until the last possible date (as it did in extending the deadline for filing comments last year -- a move I called "woefully late") to definitively state, in writing, whether it will respect the two-week window.