ICANN Resolutions » Protection for International Governmental Organization (IGO) and Red Cross Acronyms at the Second Level of the Domain Name System

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Protection for International Governmental Organization (IGO) and Red Cross Acronyms at the Second Level of the Domain Name System


Resolution of the ICANN Board
Meeting Date: 
Thu, 22 Oct 2020
Resolution Number: 
2020.10.22.06 – 2020.10.22.07
Resolution Text: 

Whereas, on 30 April 2014 the Board adopted those GNSO recommendations from the GNSO's IGO-INGO Protections in All gTLDs Policy Development Process (PDP) that were not inconsistent with GAC advice, requested more time to consider the remaining PDP recommendations, and planned to facilitate discussion among the relevant parties to reconcile the remaining differences.

Whereas, following the Board's proposal for a facilitated dialogue between the GAC and the GNSO, representatives of the GAC and the GNSO held a discussion at ICANN58 in March 2017.

Whereas, the GAC subsequently advised the Board to "pursue implementation of (i) a permanent system of notification to IGOs regarding second-level registration of strings that match their acronyms in up to two languages and (ii) a parallel system of notification to registrants for a more limited time period, in line with both previous GAC advice and GNSO recommendations".

Whereas, the GAC also advised the Board that "the same complementary cost neutral mechanisms to be worked out … for the protection of acronyms of IGOs be used to also protect the acronyms of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC/CICR) and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC/FICR)" (subsequently noted in a GAC Communique following up on previous advice to also include the acronym MKKK).

Whereas, the GNSO's 2013 PDP recommendations called for the bulk addition of the following identifiers to the Trademark Clearinghouse: (i) the acronyms of the 192 IGOs on the IGO list prepared by the GAC and submitted to ICANN in March 2013 (in 2 languages); and (ii) the full names and the following acronyms associated with the international Red Cross movement (ICRC, CICR, CICV, MKKK, IFRC, FICR (in English, as well as in their respective national languages), ICRC and IFRC (in the 6 official languages of the United Nations)); such that the relevant IGOs and the Red Cross may participate in the mandatory 90-days Trademark Claims notification phase of each new gTLD launch.

Whereas, on 27 January 2019, the Board adopted consensus recommendations approved by the GNSO Council from the Reconvened IGO-INGO PDP Working Group relating to second level protections for the full names of the National Societies of the Red Cross, thus permanently resolving the issue of appropriate policy protections for these National Society names.

Whereas, on 18 April 2019 the GNSO Council approved 4 out of 5 consensus recommendations from the IGO-INGO Access to Curative Rights Mechanisms PDP and subsequently approved an amendment to the Review of All Rights Protection Mechanisms PDP, to include a new IGO Work Track on IGO jurisdictional immunity relating to existing curative rights mechanisms, to determine whether an appropriate policy solution can be developed that is generally consistent with the 4 approved Curative Rights PDP recommendations.

Whereas, the Board has reviewed the GAC advice and the remaining recommendations from the GNSO's 2013 PDP, and believes at this time that the most appropriate solution (not including any curative rights mechanisms) regarding second level protections for IGO and Red Cross acronyms that is in the best interests of the ICANN community and ICANN will be for the ICANN organization to implement, as an operational matter, an ongoing (i.e. permanent) post-registration notification mechanism that will notify an affected IGO or the Red Cross when a third party registers a second level domain matching that organization's acronym.

Whereas, the Board has identified items of GAC advice that are or may be inconsistent with the proposed action the Board is considering.

Whereas, the ICANN Bylaws require that "[i]n the event that the Board determines to take an action that is not consistent with Governmental Advisory Committee advice, it shall so inform the Governmental Advisory Committee and state the reasons why it decided not to follow that advice" and the Board and GAC are required to enter into a Bylaws Consultation process.

Whereas, the Board understands that the proposed action it is considering may also potentially be inconsistent with the remaining GNSO PDP recommendations from 2013 and that, if the Board votes not to adopt these recommendations by the requisite threshold, the Bylaws require the Board to engage with the GNSO Council after the Board vote.

Resolved (2020.10.22.06), the Board has determined that it may take an action that is not or may not be consistent with the GAC's advice on the scope of a permanent notification mechanism concerning third party registrations of second level domain names matching the acronyms of the IGOs on the GAC's list, and hereby initiates the required Board-GAC Bylaws Consultation Process required in such an event. The Board will provide written notice to the GAC to initiate the process as required by the Bylaws Consultation Process.

Resolved (2020.10.22.07), the Board defers action at this time on the remaining recommendations from the GNSO's 2013 PDP on IGO-INGO Protections in All gTLDs and on the four recommendations approved by the GNSO Council and sent to the Board from the GNSO's 2019 PDP on IGO-INGO Access to Curative Rights Mechanisms.

Rationale for Resolution: 

Why is the Board addressing the issue now?

The acronyms at issue (i.e. of the 192 IGOs on the GAC list from 2013 and the 5 acronyms associated with the international movement of the Red Cross for which the GAC have requested equivalent protection) have been required to be reserved by registry operators on an interim basis for approximately 6 years. Following a 2017 GAC-GNSO facilitated dialogue, the GAC supported providing IGOs and the Red Cross with permanent second level protection in the form of an ongoing notification service that will alert the relevant IGO or the Red Cross when a third party attempts to register a domain name matching a protected IGO or Red Cross acronym. The GAC advice also called for a pre-registration notification to the potential registrant, an opportunity for the IGO to object as well as binding third party determination to be included in the process.

Following its review of all relevant GAC advice received to date, the GNSO's policy recommendations and its discussions with the GAC and the GNSO Council, the Board believes at this time that the most appropriate path forward is to implement an ongoing mechanism that will notify an IGO on the GAC's list or the Red Cross, as applicable, after a third party registers a domain name matching that organization's protected acronym. As this approach will require that the Board not adopt certain aspects of GAC advice, the Board is hereby initiating the Bylaws-mandated consultation process with the GAC while deferring action on the GNSO's PDP recommendations.

What is the proposal being considered?

The Board is considering taking action that will result in partial acceptance of GAC advice and non-adoption of the GNSO's remaining 2013 policy recommendations. In initiating the Board-GAC Consultation Process that is mandated when the Board intends to take action contrary to GAC advice, the Board is also deferring action on the GNSO PDP recommendations at this time.

Which stakeholders or others were consulted?

Throughout its deliberations on this topic, the Board has held discussions with the GAC and the GNSO, including at multiple ICANN Public Meetings and through facilitating the GAC-GNSO dialogue on Red Cross and IGO protections that took place in Copenhagen in March 2017. The Board has also solicited public input through public comment proceedings on the original 2013 GNSO PDP as well as on the 2019 Curative Rights PDP. In addition, the Board has provided responses to GAC advice on the topic of IGO and Red Cross protections through the issuance of Board scorecards and tracking the status of GAC advice through a published Action Request Register.

What concerns or issues were raised by the community?

Community members have noted the need to distinguish between substantive trademark rights, which are the basis for the Sunrise and Trademark Claims services offered through the Trademark Clearinghouse for the 2012 New gTLD Program, and an appropriate legal basis and policy rationale for protecting IGO and Red Cross acronyms. While some acronyms may be protected by trademark law in some jurisdictions, this is not automatically or universally true for all IGO and Red Cross acronyms. A number of community members have also noted that there may be legitimate, good faith third-party uses for IGO acronyms such that a blanket system of protection (e.g. via a reserved names list) will be inappropriate as a matter of policy. For its part, the GAC has regularly emphasized that the need to protect IGO and Red Cross acronyms stem from the fact that these organizations perform important public interest missions. The Red Cross' identifiers are protected via international treaty (i.e. the Geneva Conventions) and multiple national laws. The GAC has also noted that IGOs are in an objectively different category of rights-holders, as compared to trademark owners, due to their being created by governments under international law.

What significant materials did the Board review?

The Board has reviewed the Final Reports (including minority statements, where appended, and reports of public comments) from the 2013 and 2019 GNSO PDPs, relevant GAC advice on the topic of IGO and Red Cross protections, and records of Board discussions with the GAC and the GNSO Council on this topic.

What factors did the Board find to be significant?

As raised in the community concerns, there may be situations where a party other than an IGO or the Red Cross may have a legitimate right or interest to register and use a domain name that matches the IGO's or the Red Cross' protected acronym. At the same time, the GAC has emphasized the unique nature of the Red Cross and IGOs as well as their public interest missions. The Board therefore seeks to resolve the differences between the GAC and the GNSO through a practical operational mechanism that can provide some protection to IGOs and the Red Cross while preserving legitimate third party rights. Further, in light of the time that has passed since the GNSO completed its first PDP on IGO and Red Cross protections and the conferring of interim protections for IGOs on the GAC list and the Red Cross (via temporarily withholding their acronyms from delegation), the Board believes that it will be beneficial to take steps to provide clarity as to the scope of non-curative protections for IGO and Red Cross acronyms, particularly in light of the need to prepare for a new gTLD expansion round.

Are there positive or negative community impacts?

The Board considers that the clarity which a final resolution of a longstanding policy question concerning IGO and Red Cross acronym protections will bring is a positive result for the community. Under the Bylaws, the Board is obliged to initiate the Board-GAC Consultation Process as a first step toward this resolution.

Are there fiscal impacts or ramifications on ICANN (strategic plan, operating plan, budget); the community; and/or the public?

No additional fiscal impact is anticipated as a result of initiating the Board-GAC Consultation Process as required by the Bylaws.

Are there any security, stability or resiliency issues relating to the DNS?

There are no security, stability or resiliency issues relating to the DNS as a result of this Board action.

Is this decision in the public interest and within ICANN's mission?

The Board believes that being able to take action to resolve a longstanding policy question relating to appropriate second level protections for IGO and Red Cross acronyms, following the conclusion of the Board-GAC Consultation Process, will be in the best interests of the ICANN community and ICANN. The decision to initiate this consultation process concerns GAC advice and GNSO PDP recommendations. As such, it is within the scope of ICANN's mission as described in the Bylaws.

Is this either a defined policy process within ICANN's Supporting Organizations or ICANN's Organizational Administrative Function decision requiring public comment or not requiring public comment?

All requisite public comment proceedings mandated by the ICANN Bylaws have been conducted.