Letter from A. Cassidy Sehgal to Tina Dam
VIA E-MAIL AND FEDERAL EXPRESS
Ms. Tina Dam
Chief gTLD Registry Liaison
Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers
4676 Admiralty Way, Suite 330
Marina Del Ray, California 90292
RE: Request to Amend .Pro Registry Agreement
As we have discussed, RegistryPro, Inc. (the “Registry” or “RegistryPro”), which operates the .Pro top-level domain (“TLD”) under an agreement with ICANN dated May 3, 2002 (the “Registry Agreement”) is seeking ICANN’s written approval to modify the Registry Agreement in accordance with section 2.6 of Appendix L of the Registry Agreement. Under various sections of the Registry Agreement, the Registry is required to restrict registrations in .Pro to third-level domain names, where the second-level is comprised of a profession-specific sub-domain that designates the professional category of a registrant. However, the Registry is permitted to offer second-level .Pro names subject to ICANN’s written approval under certain circumstances (described below). Accordingly, we are submitting the following request to include second-level domains.
The Registry’s objective in seeking this modification is not in any way to move away from or diminish the .Pro registration requirements, but to offer greater consumer choice with regard to the naming conventions available. The .Pro offering is unique in the gTLD world and while we are confident we have developed a product with a strong value proposition, it is clear that the .Pro TLD is unlike other domain names available today and may present some challenges for registrars and for consumer adoption. It is for this reason that we are turning to ICANN to request that we be permitted to add a second-level offering, which we believe will enhance the .Pro appeal to our distribution channel, while also offering increased consumer choice.
Registrations within the .Pro TLD are organized into profession-specific domains designed for the various professions to be served by .Pro. Domain names are restricted to persons and entities that are credentialed by appropriate entities (such as through governmental bodies and professional organizations) to provide professional services within a stated geographic region. To enforce the registration restrictions, .Pro registrants are required to certify that they meet the registration restrictions set forth in the Registry Agreement (as well as any additional registration restrictions set forth by the Registry), and the information provided by registrants is required to be cross-verified before a .Pro name is issued. The Registry Agreement sets forth a process by which verification of data occurs (Section 8 of Appendix L of the Registry Agreement) and requires that all .Pro domain names be bundled with digital certificates that may be downloaded and used by registrants to secure their online communications.
Initially, the .Pro TLD will be available to members of the legal, medical, and accounting professions through the following PS-SLDs:
Generally, .law.pro domain names are available to licensed providers of legal or related services, such as lawyers, solicitors, barristers, judges, legal clinics, law firms, in-house counsel, and legal publishers, among others. The .med.pro domain is available to licensed providers of health related services, such as doctors, hospitals, medical clinics, and medical publishers, among others. The .cpa.pro domain is available to licensed providers of accounting and accounting related services, including chartered accountants, certified public accountants, accounting firms, associations, and accounting publishers, among others. Under the Registry Agreement, RegistryPro may introduce additional professions and variations of the current strings used to identify the various professions to be served based upon custom and linguistic differences in the jurisdictions in with .Pro will be offered (including .avocat for lawyers, .acct for accountants). (Section 3.12 and 4.5 of Appendix L of the Registry Agreement).
While registrations are generally restricted to the third-level, the Registry Agreement does provide for future allowance of second-level registrations under Section 2.6 of Appendix L:
2.6 Possible Future Allowance of Second-Level Registrations. Some registrants (particularly professionals in some jurisdictions that do not semantically correspond to the designated PS-SLD abbreviations) may prefer to use a domain name that has only two levels (www.xxx.pro rather than www.xxx.law.pro). In the future, the Registry Operator may propose to give .pro registrants the option of registering for two-level domain names directly in the .pro TLD (subject to the list of restricted domain names in Appendices K and X and in compliance with the registration policies, processes and requirements in this Appendix L and Appendices J and M); these domain names would be distinguished by professional category by being directly routed to matching Registered Names in the applicable PS-SLD. Any proposal by the Registry Operator under this Subsection 2.6 must be made in writing to ICANN and will be subject to ICANN's written approval. In determining whether to give approval, ICANN will consider any recommendations of the Advisory Board as contemplated in Subsection 22.214.171.124 of this Appendix L. If ICANN does not act on a proposal within ninety days, it will report in writing to the Registry Operator on the status of its consideration.
RegistryPro seeks to offer second level names in two situations under this provision:
(1) where registrants provide multiple professional services and meet two or more eligibility requirements. Examples of organizations that would qualify are accounting firms (providing both legal and accounting services such as Price Waterhouse Coopers), financial service providers (offering accounting and legal advice, such as ING), and
(2) where any professional meets the .Pro requirements we would like to offer them the ability to register on the second-level, with a redirect to the third-level professional designator that corresponds to their professional area. For example, a lawyer or law firm could register for johnsmith.pro in addition to johnsmith.law.pro. The second-level name would be redirected to a corresponding third-level designator (a skadden.pro would be redirected to skadden.law.pro). Thus, we would offer URL and email redirect service. RegistryPro would charge an additional fee for the re-direct services for users opting to register on the second-level.
In both cases, the registrants would be required to meet all of the registration requirements set forth in Appendix L. In the first case, we are seeking a second-level offering because it may not be clear to registrants or their users as to which professional sub-domain they would fall under. For example, companies offering consulting services with both legal and accounting functions do not clearly fall into either of the .law.pro or .cpa.pro sub-domains. A second-level label would be a clearer indication.
In the second instance, we propose a redirect option to offer greater choice to users while preserving the sub-domain identifier. We have provided further rationale below.
Rationale for .Pro Second-Level Offerings:
In our discussions with registrars and end-users it has become clear that the limitation in the .Pro name space to third-level names may present an unnecessary obstacles and limitations on consumer choice and adoption and the accredited registrar distribution channel. For example, we have been advised by a number of registrars that they will not add .Pro registrations to their “name spinners” used most often by consumers because .Pro names are third level names. As with the experience of the Global Name Registry, which operates the .NAME registry (and recently sought and received ICANN approval for selling second-level names, see http://www.icann.org/montreal/name-second-level-proposal.htm) many large registrars do not sell third-level names on their home pages, but have other pages – where users must search for the offerings on their sites. We believe the .Pro offering needs to be similar enough to other domains where registrars do not need to modify their systems. This will also benefit registrants. As our Sunrise process has made clear, many registrants become frustrated when they are unable to easily register a name and are required to engage in extensive searches to register. In many instances, we have lost registrants as a result of the difficulties in finding an appropriate provider with an online registration process.
RegistryPro has also conducted both qualitative and quantitative focus groups with potential registrants to better understand the needs of professional registrants1. What is clear is that professionals, particularly those with heightened confidentiality obligations do see the value in the .Pro offering. Some are interested in third-level names and the professional differentiation, however a majority of users have requested that we either provide names using the second-level designator (e.g. .med or .law) or .pro alone. Many of the users have indicated that they prefer a name string which is similar to the dot com string and have said that they believe that third-level strings could prove to be an impediment. We believe the re-direct offering would provide these users with a name that is more consistent with other, dominant TLD offerings.
Moreover, a majority of the inquiries that we have received from potential registrants over the past year have been for second-level registrations (i.e. for Johnsmith.pro vs. johnsmith.law.pro). In a market where .com remains the dominant domain, many professionals find second-level registrations easier and more convenient to use.
Thus, RegistryPro strongly submits that based upon our market research, discussions with end-users and registrars, the addition of a second-level offering would improve consumer choice and improve the distribution channels for the .Pro domain name space. While we recognize the unique value of third-level names, we also recognize that many users are accustomed to second-level registrations today. Indeed, even ICANN board members have commented on the potential need for second-level names, for example, during the ICANN meeting in Ghana in 2002, where the Registry Agreement was approved, Amadeu Abril I Abril supported such an offering. Thus, the proposed second-level offerings will complement the existing third-level domain offering, but would provide registrants and registrants with greater choices in the .Pro name space. The proposed second-level names for professionals meeting multiple professional registration requirements, will be provisioned and function similarly to other second-level gTLD services and will continue to uphold .Pro’s existing eligibility requirements. Second-level names that will be re-directed will also uphold the current registration restrictions and will merely offer wider latitude to end-users. Thus, only professionals who meet the registration restrictions would be permitted to register for second-level names and all of the fundamental features of the .Pro offering will be duly maintained when adding the second-level registration capabilities.
Support for a Second-Level Offering
We have spoken to the current registrars intending to offer .Pro and have received resounding support for our offering. In addition, we have received unanimous support from our advisory board comprised of professional associations. Thus, we submit that a second-level .Pro offering will not only enhance consumer choice, but that registrars and resellers will easily adapt their existing systems to a second-level offering, bringing the .Pro space more in reach of consumers.
Proposed Contract Amendments:
RegistryPro proposes to amend relevant portions of the Registry Agreement, including portions of Appendices F, G, and L to reflect the addition of the proposed registry service. Specifically, the Registry proposes to modify the Registration Requirements set forth in the Registry Agreement, which are published on the RegistryPro website at www.registrypro.pro, and to take such steps as are necessary to notify ICANN Accredited Registrars of, and to implement, the revised Registration Requirements in accordance with the provisions of the Registry-Registrar Agreement.
Requested Amendments Are Consistent with the Intent of the .PRO Domain:
The .Pro domain name space is based on the concept that professional service providers and their consumers/patients would be well served by a domain that is intended exclusively for them. One of RegistryPro’s objectives has been to foster greater communication and secure communication tools for providers and users of professional services. We believe that the second-level offering of .Pro will assist us in furthering that goal by widening our distribution channel and expediting the recognition and adoption of .Pro.
ICANN May Undertake a Streamlined Review of the Proposed Amendment:
The ICANN board recently approved a proposal by the Global Name Registry (“GNR”) to offer second-level names. RegistryPro’s request for modification, unlike GNR’s is actually permitted under our Registry Agreement. We do not view these changes as requiring Board action and we believe that our request is entirely consistent with our Registry Agreement, which contemplates the offering of second-level names.
Notwithstanding RegistryPro’s interpretation of the Registry Agreement, in April 2002, the ICANN staff adopted the following standard for review of registry requests to introduce new services which balance ICANN’s interest in promoting innovation, on the one hand, and protecting competition on the other:
[I]n considering requests to amend a registry agreement to authorize charging for additional registry services, my judgment is that a preliminary "quick-look" evaluation should be made to determine whether it is plausible that the legitimate interests of others could be harmed by the proposed amendment. If no legitimate interest appears in danger of being harmed, then a streamlined procedure for approval should be followed. If, however, there are specific reasons to conclude that the legitimate interests of others are likely to be harmed, then ICANN's existing obligation to seek consensus whenever possible before acting suggests that it should invoke the formal consensus development mechanisms that currently exist prior to any decision by the ICANN Board.
The Registry’s proposal to permit registrations at the second level in .Pro does not threaten to harm either competition or consumers. Therefore, under the staff criteria, the Board is authorized to move expeditiously to consider this request to amend the Registry Agreement between RegistryPro and ICANN and we submit that such approval be sought during the next ICANN board meeting so that we may offer the second-level product at launch.
Impact of Proposal on Relevant Interests and Existing Products:
All ICANN Accredited .Pro registrars and resellers will automatically be eligible to provide this new product. We believe that the second level offering will provide a more attractive offering for registrars and may be included on their home pages and name spinners.
Through a second-level offering, .Pro will be in a position to better serve professionals offering multiple services, such as business, accounting and finance firms. Moreover, because .Pro names will be easier to register for (since more registrars will support the offering and in a more visible manner), the .Pro space will be easier to access, more supported by distributors and will have wide-scale adoption.
Intellectual Property Owners
The second-level offering proposed by RegistryPro will have no adverse impact on intellectual property interests, because Defensive Registrations and dispute resolution requirements will continue to apply. The existing Premium Defensive Registrations will work as they do today for third-level names, but they will have the additional benefit of also getting the second-level reserved. For example, a Premium Defensive Registration of “examplemark” will protect not only examplemark.med.pro, but also examplemark.pro.
In addition, Standard Defensive Registrations would also be available to registrants on the third-level (who are seeking a re-direct). Each of the Defensive Registrations will be available through registrars on an on-going basis.
RegistryPro would work with registrars to ensure that there would be no compromise to any existing registrants within the .Pro space. In the case of existing registrants seeking second-level registrations, they would be granted, as with all other domain name registrations, on a first-come, first-serve basis. The Registry would protect the rights of Premium Defensive Registrants and extend their registrations to “block” on the second level as well. Finally, in the event that this request is approved before our live launch, there can be no harm to the user community and we believe that we will instead better serve .Pro users and registrars.
RegistryPro continues to believe that third-level domain names are a core part of our vision. RegistryPro’s short term imperative, however, is to eliminate any obstacles that stand in the way of registrars, resellers, and individual end-users who wish to register in and use the .Pro space address. We would like to see as many ICANN accredited registrars as possible offering the .Pro domain, and we believe that the allowance of second-level names will help us to accomplish that goal.
RegistryPro sincerely appreciates your efforts to assist us in making the .Pro registry a success. We look forward to a successful launch of .Pro and enhancing the DNS through the thoughtful provision of services that will meet the needs of the professional community. Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions regarding our request.
A. Cassidy Sehgal
Director of Policy and Legal Affairs
cc: Timothy Gelman, CEO, RegistryPro, Inc.
Karen Lentz, Chief Registry Liaison, ICANN
Paul Twomey, CEO, ICANN
1 We conducted focus groups through Kadence Research in 2002 and the Greenfield Group in 2003. Back to place in document.