Domain Group Gets Injunction Hearing

VeriSign and the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) avoided a temporary restraining order but still face a day in court soon.

A judge with the U.S. District Court in San Jose will hear arguments by the Coalition for ICANN Transparency (CFIT) for a preliminary injunction to block a proposed agreement between ICANN and VeriSign.

CFIT originally sought a temporary restraining order against any finalized .com agreement, but Judge Ronald Whyte in San Jose ruled Wednesday that, among other reasons, the organization couldn’t prove their was an immediate need to do so.

Instead, he decided to treat CFIT’s order to show cause and temporary restraining order requests as a notice of motion for a preliminary injunction, with a hearing set for Feb. 10.

If successful, the injunction would prevent ICANN and VeriSign from: entering into the proposed 2005 .com agreement; approving any other agreement before the expiration of the current .com contract in November 20047; and offering any registry services, particularly the Central Listing Service (CLS), mentioned in the proposed .com agreement.

The coalition was one of two trade organizations that filed antitrust lawsuits against VeriSign and ICANN Monday. If approved by the ICANN board of directors, the agreement would settle litigation filed by VeriSign against ICANN and extend the .com registry operator’s contract to 2012.

While ICANN might have originally planned to formally adopt the .com agreement proposed in October at the Vancouver, Canada public meetings underway this week, they now won’t likely make any decision until after the new year, according to court documents. According to ICANN lawyers, a settlement vote was not planned for the ICANN board meeting Sunday and there are no other board meetings scheduled this year. The organization last month extended the public comment period so the issue could be discussed at the Vancouver meetings.

“We sincerely hope that ICANN and VeriSign will take the opportunity here in Vancouver and in the period leading to the hearing on February 10 to listen to the concerns of the Internet community and resolve this matter within ICANN’s own policy-making and oversight mechanisms,” John Berard, CFIT spokesperson, said in a statement.

VeriSign and ICANN say the lawsuits are an attempt by a sector within the domain name reseller market to stifle competition, specifically in the area of expiring domain names. VeriSign has proposed to launch the CLS, a modified version of the Wait Listing Service that allows participating registrars to bid on expiring .com and .net domain names.

“The law is clear that a plaintiff must submit evidence of harm to competition, not merely to one or two individual competitors,” ICANN’s legal response to the temporary restraining order states. “And even if those individual competitors will suffer loss of business, such losses are remediable in damages and provide no basis for injunctive relief.”

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