Qualified Launch Program Introduced for New gTLD Registries

by Karen Lentz on April 14, 2014

ICANN recently established the Qualified Launch Program (QLP), which enables new gTLD registries to issue domain names to certain parties to help promote awareness that a new TLD is launching. These domains are somewhat like “anchor tenants” in a new shopping center – their presence makes the location attractive to other businesses.

A number of registries expressed interest in this type of program. ICANN worked to deliver without losing sight of intellectual property protections. The solution we arrived at was to permit registries to use a limited number of names in connection with registry launch activities, so long as those names did not conflict with the rights protection mechanisms required by the Registry Agreement.

How does the Qualified Launch Program work?

The QLP provides that a registry can give up to 100 names to third parties before Sunrise (a rights protection mechanism) if the name:

  1. is not on the list of Sunrise-eligible labels in the Trademark Clearinghouse (the “Sunrise List”)
  2. is on the Sunrise List, but is given to a Sunrise-eligible rights holder
  3. is a public authority or place operated by a public authority

Why is the QLP being introduced?

The goal of the QLP is to give new registries additional tools as they open up their doors for business. Having a program generally available will also be beneficial in being more efficient than asking registries to apply individually for Approved Launch Programs.

How was the QLP introduced?

As with many other ICANN endeavors, we first developed a draft of the process, then published it and solicited community input. After analyzing comments and concerns, ICANN established the Qualified Launch Program and it has been automatically incorporated into the Rights Protection Mechanism Requirements [PDF, 167 KB].

The QLP is essentially the same as the draft version. Here is an overview of the updates:

  1. Slightly revised definition of names that can be given to governments/public authorities
    Comments suggested some revisions to this category, for example, incorporating “subdivisions or districts” of a city or region, which have been incorporated as this is in keeping with the intent of the draft. We have also made a clarification that these names can be in any language provided they fit the requirements.

  2. “Public authority” category of names made available to any TLD
    Originally, only names identified as “geographic” according to the Applicant Guidebook definition were eligible under the public authority category.Community feedback suggested that eligibility should not be limited to those TLDs that fell within the Guidebook definition, as a broader set of registries might also have a geographic orientation. Given what appears to be a low risk that governments or public authorities will use the QLP to circumvent rights protections, ICANN updated the QLP to allow any registry to give out names to these groups.

How do I use the QLP?

All registries may assign names, as provided by the QLP, after following the steps below:

  1.  Notify ICANN of the intention to use the QLP, by either submitting or updating the registry’s TLD Startup Information.
  2. Obtain a Sunrise List, including all the labels associated with a Signed Mark Data (SMD) file, from the Trademark Clearinghouse.
  3. Check the names you would like to assign against the list. You may give out QLP names to:
    1. Sunrise-eligible rights holders
    2. Public authorities
    3. Anyone, IF the name isn’t on the list AND you have distributed less than 99 other names

We hope that the QLP will be a useful tool for registries to use in launching their TLDs.

Further Reading

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