VeriSign Sues ICANN

VeriSign accuses the domain-name overseer of overstepping its bounds by blocking VeriSign's attempts to offer new services.

VeriSign Inc. on Thursday filed a lawsuit against the organization that oversees the domain-name system, accusing the group of improperly delaying new services that VeriSign wants to offer.

VeriSign, in the lawsuit filed in federal court in Los Angeles against the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, alleges that ICANN has overstepped it authority as a technical review body to "become the de facto regulator of the domain name system."

VeriSign, of Mountain View, Calif., manages the .com and .net domains through a registry agreement with ICANN. The lawsuit accuses ICANN of violating that agreement and in restraining competition by restricting the types of service VeriSign can offer.

The lawsuit follows a string of controversies surrounding new services VeriSign has introduced or proposed, most notably the SiteFinder redirection service. VeriSign had launch SiteFinder in September as a way of redirecting users that mistyped or misspelling a Web address to its own search site. 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.

Other VeriSign services named in the lawsuit include the wait listing service, which would allow customers to reserve the right to register an expiring domain name, and the introduction of internationalized domain names.

An ICANN spokesman said the organization had yet to see the lawsuit and could not comment on it.

ICANN is holding a public meeting in Rome next week, where its board plans to consider approving the wait listing service. The meeting will focus on ICANN reform efforts as well as the ICANN process for the introduction of new registry services, ICANN President and CEO Paul Twomey told in an earlier interview.

ICANNs Generic Names Supporting Organization has been reviewing the process for the introduction of new registry services, such as those from VeriSign, but has yet to make any recommendations, Twomey said.

VeriSign officials, while stressing that they support the existence of ICANN, said that the nonprofit organizations reform efforts have not yielded needed changes.

"In the end, a lawsuit was the culmination of efforts in the last few years to gain clarity about ICANNs role," said Tom Galvin, VeriSigns vice president of government relations. "After trying and failing, it was our best option at this point."

Opponents of some of VeriSigns attempts to introduce new services view the lawsuit as an attempt to undermine ICANN. ICANNs charter does extend beyond technical consideration to include dealing with competitive concerns in the domain-name industry, said Mike Arrington, CEO of Inc., in Nepean, Ontario, in Canada. sells a back-ordering service for domain names to registrars and has opposed VeriSigns wait lisiting service, even suing ICANN in Canada to block it.

"This is a crucial lawsuit that [VeriSign] has been waiting to file for quite a long time," he said. "They want to defang and immasculate ICANN so they can do whatever they want."

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