On September 11, 2014, ICANN released an updated Auction Schedule for all remaining contention sets – a situation where more than one organization applied for the same gTLD. The outcome of these ICANN Auctions affects not only the new gTLD applicants involved, but also brand owners looking to register in new gTLDs.
Because of past delays, today’s auction will be the first to settle multiple contention sets in a single round: .BUY, .TECH, and .VIP. All of these strings have multiple applicants and Google and Donuts are featured in all three. It is also the first ICANN Auction for a Latin alphabet string. Thus far, the only contention set resolved by ICANN Auction has been a Chinese IDN, which Beijing Tele-info Network Technology Co., Ltd. won out over Afilias.
The .BUY contention set in particular is a good example of how an auction winner can have a major impact on whether or not a brand owner decides to register in a new gTLD.
The .BUY contention set is between Donuts, Amazon, Google, and Famous Four Media. If Donuts were to win .BUY, brand owners concerned with defensive registrations who have purchased the Donuts DPML Block would be able to breathe easy, as the Block would cover this string. If Famous Four Media wins the contention set, most brand owners will have to proactively register domains in the string to protect their trademarks. Another scenario is if Amazon wins the auction. In its application, Amazon proposed to operate .BUY as not fully open; however, the exact registration policy has not been released. Some brand owners may be able to register in an Amazon-owned .BUY while others may not. This could have significant implications for brands’ online strategies.
As a reminder, the ICANN Auction is the resolution method of last resort. In some cases, applicants involved in a contention set have reached private deals to reach a resolution. Sometimes, especially when the applicants involved have applied for multiple gTLDs, an applicant will give up one string in exchange for keeping another. While the details of these private settlements are not made public, many of the applicants involved in the contention sets up for Auction today have been party to such settlements.
In other instances, these settlements involve paying out the “losing” applicant or applicants for sums that range from the thousands to millions of dollars.
Will the ICANN Auctions result in similar string prices? Or, will holding out for an ICANN Auction lower the sticker price? Further, will the outcome of these ICANN Auctions cause other applicants in contention sets to change course, either in favor of ICANN Auctions or against? We’ll find out soon enough!
The auction began today at 9 AM, but how long it will go is anybody’s guess – the auction is an ascending-clock model, which means that bidders must match the minimum bid for each unit of time in order to move on to the next round. The longer more than one bidder is willing to stay in the auction, the longer it will take to reach a conclusion.