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Advisory Concerning ESI Litigation

(10 November 2000) On the morning of 9 November 2000, Economic Solutions, Inc. ("ESI") filed a lawsuit against ICANN in United States District Court in St. Louis, Missouri. In the complaint it filed with the court, ESI seeks, among other things, to prohibit ICANN from establishing a ".biz" or ".ebiz" top-level domain (TLD) or any other TLD that is similar to the country code for Belize, ".bz." ESI claims to have entered into a marketing agreement with the Country of Belize to market the ".bz" country code TLD (ccTLD), and it claims that establishment of a .biz or .ebiz TLD would injure ESI, which allegedly has intellectual property rights in ".bz." In its lawsuit, ESI also seeks to cause the transfer of the administration of the ".bz" TLD from the current administrators to ESI.

Later that same day, ICANN opposed, on multiple grounds, ESI's motion for temporary restraining order. Following the hearing, the Court asked the parties to file additional briefs and supporting papers on November 13, 2000.

ICANN believes that ESI's lawsuit is without merit. Procedurally, ICANN objects to being required to litigate the matter in Missouri. ICANN also denies that ESI has intellectual property rights in the ".bz" ccTLD. That ccTLD has been established for the operation in the benefit of the Internet community in Belize under the trusteeship of managers designated by the IANA (ESI is not the designated manager or the designated sponsoring organization). It is important to note that ccTLD matters are governed by the longstanding principle, noted by Jon Postel in RFC 1591, that "Concerns about 'rights' and 'ownership' of domains are inappropriate. It is appropriate to be concerned about 'responsibilities' and 'service' to the community."

ICANN believes that community-based discussion, through the ICANN process, about what TLDs should be established should be allowed to proceed without interference. Legal precedents refute the claim that TLDs enjoy trademark protection. The United States Patent and Trademark Office has made clear that a top-level domain name, when used as a registry under which lower-level domain names are registered, does not function as a source identifier subject to service-mark rights. This conclusion has been followed in court, and is consistent with the advice of ICANN's Governmental Advisory Committee. Accordingly, ICANN intends to defend vigorously the Internet community's consensus-based process, with the hope that it leads to establishment of TLDs according to the community's wishes.


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Internationalized Domain Name ,IDN,"IDNs are domain names that include characters used in the local representation of languages that are not written with the twenty-six letters of the basic Latin alphabet ""a-z"". An IDN can contain Latin letters with diacritical marks, as required by many European languages, or may consist of characters from non-Latin scripts such as Arabic or Chinese. Many languages also use other types of digits than the European ""0-9"". The basic Latin alphabet together with the European-Arabic digits are, for the purpose of domain names, termed ""ASCII characters"" (ASCII = American Standard Code for Information Interchange). These are also included in the broader range of ""Unicode characters"" that provides the basis for IDNs. The ""hostname rule"" requires that all domain names of the type under consideration here are stored in the DNS using only the ASCII characters listed above, with the one further addition of the hyphen ""-"". The Unicode form of an IDN therefore requires special encoding before it is entered into the DNS. The following terminology is used when distinguishing between these forms: A domain name consists of a series of ""labels"" (separated by ""dots""). The ASCII form of an IDN label is termed an ""A-label"". All operations defined in the DNS protocol use A-labels exclusively. The Unicode form, which a user expects to be displayed, is termed a ""U-label"". The difference may be illustrated with the Hindi word for ""test"" — परीका — appearing here as a U-label would (in the Devanagari script). A special form of ""ASCII compatible encoding"" (abbreviated ACE) is applied to this to produce the corresponding A-label: xn--11b5bs1di. A domain name that only includes ASCII letters, digits, and hyphens is termed an ""LDH label"". Although the definitions of A-labels and LDH-labels overlap, a name consisting exclusively of LDH labels, such as""icann.org"" is not an IDN."