Who is Alain Pellet, and What’s an Independent Objector? ICANN Formal Objection Review, Part I

One of the most exciting aspects of ICANN’s new gTLD application process is the objections. Looking over the newly released list, you may notice a couple of things: One, there’s going to be a hot debate about who owns a word. Two, there will be a defining decision made regarding brands that encompass generic terms, such as .BLUE being objected by Blue Cross and Blue Shield. And three, there’s a guy named Prof. Alain Pellet objecting to a lot of new gTLDs.

Who is Professor Pellet? Did he kill Mr. Boddy in the library with a candlestick? And, what makes him an Independent Objector? Here’s a run-down of who Pellet is, and his role at ICANN:

Who is Alain Pellet?

He’s a professor of law, a former United Nations International Law president and current member, he’s been on the counsel for a number of governments, and he’s an author of multiple books. (Read: All-round badass.)

What is an independent Objector?

An Independent Objector is the person ICANN selected to represent the public during the formal objection period. Basically, Pellet represents the concerns and ntlds objectionsneeds of the general public, who may not have the funds to submit a formal objection on their own, or have the legal resources to back a formal objection through the dispute process.

According to ICANN, the Independent Objector (IO) must be unaffiliated with any applicant and willing to present public concerns in an unbiased and fair manner. The IO is a third-party presenter in the objection process. The IO, according to the ICANN guidebook, may object to any application he finds “highly objectionable,” that is not already being objected to by another entity, and he must only object to an applicant after a member of the public community has submitted a comment concerning the application, or an argument concerning opposition to an application takes place in the public sphere.

What is a formal objection?

A formal objection is different than the objections people were able to make as comments on ICANN threads. It’s a filed objection against one or more applicants that claims one of four infractions (this info can be found in Module 3 of the ICANN gTLD Guidebook):

  • String Confusion Objection: An applied-for gTLD is too similar to another applied-for, or current, gTLD, and therefore would create confusion among Internet users.
  • Legal Rights Objection: An applied-for gTLD infringes on a registered trademark or brand.
  • Limited Public Interest Objection: An applied-for gTLD infringes on the public’s legal interest.
  • Community Objection: An applied-for gTLD damages a recognized community’s interests.

After a formal objection is filed, the applicant has 30 days to respond. After 30 days, if the applicant does not respond, the objection wins out, and the application is void. If the applicant responds, a expert panel, knowledgeable in whatever area the objection is in, will review the objection and decide an outcome.

Prof. Alain Pellet’s Chosen Objections:

Looking at the objections, you’ll see that the Pellet, acting as the Independent Objector, only objected to applications on the basis of Limited Public Interest Objections or Community Objections, and that is because the IO is limited to those two types of objections. Here’s a list of the new gTLDs Pellet objected to (LP= Limited Public Objection; C= Community Objection):

  • .HEALTH (LP,C), .HEALTHCARE (LP,C), .HOSPITAL (LP, C), .MED (LP,C), .MEDICAL (LP,C)
  • .AMAZON (the proposed Chinese and Arabic script equivalents to .AMAZON, as well) (C)
  • .PATAGONIA (C)
  • .CHARITY (the proposed Chinese script equivalent to .CHARITY, as well) (C)
  • .INDIANS (C)

For a complete list of all objections, click here.

Each objections intends to protect communities and public interests. .AMAZON and .PATAGONIA both represent well-recognized company brands and geographical regions, defined by their culture and inhabitants, so the IO is representing the members of these two communities when objecting to these brands owning the proposed nTLDs.

Similarly, .INDIANS defines two sets of cultures, both indigenous North Americans and inhabitants of India, and so the IO is objecting to the use of this defining term in either too broad or too limited a context, for fear of damaging these communities.

Finally, .CHARITY and the series of medical industry gTLDs represent organizational communities that rely on credibility, trust, and security to relay information, fund-raise, and save lives. In these objections, the IO is asserting that these gTLDs would infringe on the legal and community rights of these two sectors, and that allowing unrestricted or bias control of the registration of these nTLDs would be detrimental to the overall health of the Internet. We’ll have to wait and see if the reviewing board agrees.

Keep in touch to see what happens with these objections as they work through the dispute process, and feel free to check out the ICANN-sponsored Independent Objector webpage, for more information on Alain Pellet and the role of the IO. If you’ve had your eye on any of these new gTLDs, be sure to sign up for our Watcher, and we’ll keep you updated on the nTLDs you’re interested in, through the evaluation and dispute processes.