2015-10-15

Why Did ICANN Become a Member of Trademark Lobbyist Group INTA?

"The International Trademark Association (INTA) is the global association of trademark owners and professionals ... INTA undertakes advocacy work throughout the world ..." -- from the INTA website

" . . . . you deny the existence of special interest lobbies in ICANN? Tell you what. Get yourself to an ICANN meeting, let me know if it is London, Los Angeles, or any other one, and I will give you a personal guided tour of special interest lobbies in ICANN. You’ll be shaking hands with so many lawyers and consultants you may want to bring some Chinese herbal lotion. If you want less dynamic and interesting evidence, take a look at this old blog post of ours, which documents ICANN staff’s catering to trademark/brand protection interests..." - Professor Milton Mueller (June 9, 2014)

Kudos to the esteemed Professor Milton Mueller of the Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech) for his tweets below bringing our attention again to the gross lapses of judgment, and conflicts of interest at ICANN:
INTABulletin: The Voice of the International Trademark Association, July 15, 2015  Vol. 70 No. 13: Interview: Owen Smigelski, Director, ICANN Contractual Compliance: ".... It’s not always sufficient to see one comment from the IPC; it’s good to see comments from individual brand owners ... How else can INTA help? One recent development is that ICANN became an INTA member. I see that as a good opportunity for ICANN and the community to collaborate. I myself have been to three of the last four Annual Meetings. So there continues to be that relationship-building ... Another thing is that ongoing right now is a Rights Protection Mechanism (RPM) review. That’s looking at all the RPMs within ICANN, including the UDRP. There was a public comment period that ended in May and there will be a report later this year coming out, which will probably lead to additional policy and working group opportunities. I’m not sure what’s going to come out of that, but there could be modifications to the UDRP that INTA and its members should certainly be involved with. For more information on ICANN developments or to become involved with Internet and ICANN issues through INTA, contact INTA’s Senior Director of Internet Policy ..." (emphasis and IPC link added)

This boggles the mind! Trademark owners and lawyers, do you have a problem with ICANN? Why bother going through your lobbying organization, INTA, just go straight to one of INTA's outstanding new members: ICANN! Of course ICANN has a well-deserved reputation as being a "captured" organization of the well-resourced commercial organizations that dominate and control most ICANN groups, meetings, and processes, including its policy-making Generic Names Supporting Organization (GNSO). These "conflicts" had infected the ICANN Board of Directors to such a degree that in 2012, the U.S. Department of Commerce (NTIA) almost pulled the "IANA functions contract" completely away from ICANN:
"The Commerce Department said this month that while it was temporarily extending a contract with the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers to manage the allocation of computers’ Internet protocol addresses — and the .com and .net names of Web sites associated with them — it warned the organization that it needed to tighten its rules against conflicts of interest or risk losing a central role." --The New York Times, March 18, 2012 (emphasis added)
In February of this year, ICANN CEO Fadi Chehade raised eyebrows at his speech at another lobbyist organization's meeting during ICANN 52, at Singapore:

Fadi Chehade: "... I think Adrian [Kinderis], Kurt [Pritz], and others who know this idea of the DNA Association [DNA represents the interests of the new gTLDs domain name industry] and started in some small meetings we were having at the ICANN office where I was a huge early supporter, and continued to be ... there's a brewing issue for example coming up that will affect your industry ... I'm committed to your industry without a question. I need to understand it more and spend more time in it, no question. I did realize at some point that ICANN itself is an organization needs a dedicated president that is focused on serving the industry. I asked Akram [Atallah] to abandon his COO role and be the president [of ICANN's Global Domains Division (GDD)]. We created this division to serve you. In many ways we need to pair GDD and DNA and make sure that that is very tight ..."--ICANN President and CEO Fadi Chehade, transcript of DNA meeting, February 10, 2015, video of meeting here (emphasis and links added).

Who at ICANN is serving the Public Interest? We now know that the ICANN Global Domains Division and its President, Akram Atallah, serve the new gTLDs' domain name industry and its lobbying arm, the DNA. And we also now know that ICANN is not just serving, but is a member of the trademark lobbying organization INTA. But is there ANYONE serving the PUBLIC INTEREST at ICANN? Does ICANN, its Board of Directors, or any of its officers, staff, or its "ICANN stakeholder community" even care about the Public Interest? Or is it only governments that care about, and protect, the public interest?

ICANN, and the ICANN Community, just don't get it. It is obvious that the last thing ICANN needs in order to become accountable to the Global Internet Community (global multistakeholder community) is to become a "membership" organization primarily of, for, and by the lobbyists and lobbying organizations who already have an inordinate and corrupting influence over the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers.

It appears ICANN has learned nothing since 2012, and may not be ready to operate without some kind of "governmental oversight" to protect the "global public interest." At a minimum, it appears ICANN officers and staff lack the moral compass to discern and avoid obvious conflicts of interest. Is this really the appropriate time for the US government to just walk away from its oversight role and leave the global multistakeholder community (global internet community) vulnerable to exploitation by ICANN and its special interest lobbyist stakeholders? It may be time for Larry Strickling (NTIA), the US Department of Commerce and the Obama Administration to reassess their IANA Stewardship Transition announcement of March, 2014.

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