Judge Dismisses Claim in VeriSigns ICANN Case

 
 
By Matthew Hicks  |  Posted 2004-05-18
 
 
 
A federal judge on Tuesday dismissed the main antitrust claim in VeriSign Inc.s lawsuit against the nonprofit that oversees the Internets Web-addressing system. The judge did leave VeriSign with an opportunity to reinstate it, however.

The judge ruled on the first claim in the case, one of six that the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers had asked to be dismissed, according to ICANN and VeriSign officials. The first claim deals with VeriSigns allegations that ICANN has broken antitrust laws in restricting the types of services it can offer as the registry for the .com and .net domains.

"This goes to the essence of whether their claim on antitrust is appropriately filed or not and whether its adequate, and were happy with the judges ruling this morning," said John Jeffrey, ICANNs general counsel.

VeriSign in February filed the lawsuit against ICANN, alleging that the Marina del Rey, Calif., nonprofit had overstepped its bounds as a technical body to "become the de facto regulator of the domain name system." VeriSign accuses ICANN of improperly delaying new services it wants to offer, such as the now-suspended SiteFinder redirection service and the wait-listing service for expiring domain names.

VeriSign now has until June 7 to amend its complaint and to provide the judge with more details supporting its antitrust claim—a step the Mountain View, Calif., company plans to take, VeriSign spokesman Brian OShaughnessy said.

"Nothing has changed for us, and we still believe that well ultimately prevail in this matter," OShaughnessy said. "This is nothing that unexpected and is part of the procedure, and we plan to continue pressing our case."

In the hearing in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, the judge did not rule on the facts of the case nor on ICANNs other motion seeking to block the case under the so-called "anti-SLAPP" law in California that attempts to prevent lawsuits that could curb public debate, VeriSign and ICAAN officials said.

If the dismissal of the antitrust claim stays in place despite VeriSigns amended filing, the case would need to move to California state court to proceed, since the other claims are state issues, Jeffrey said.

VeriSigns lawsuit had followed a string of controversies surrounding services it wanted to provide in addition to its management of the Webs two major domains. The most notable was SiteFinder, which VeriSign had launched in September as a way of redirecting to its own search site users who mistyped or misspelled a Web address. It then suspended SiteFinder after ICANN demanded it be halted.

VeriSign officials have said they are considering relaunching SiteFinder. In the lawsuit, the company is seeking a temporary and permanent injunction to prevent ICANN from interfering with any reintroduction of SiteFinder or the launch of other services. VeriSign also is seeking unspecified damages.

The wait-listing service, also cited in VeriSigns lawsuit, has stirred debate and led to another lawsuit against ICANN from a group of registrars that sell the domain names that VeriSign manages, seeking to block the back-ordering service. ICANNs board in March approved the service following negotiations between ICANN and VeriSign.

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