A group of registrars suing to block a controversial service for the back-ordering of domain names has dropped its lawsuit, but the service remains mired in legal disputes.
Eight registrars last year sued VeriSign Inc. and the domain name systems main oversight body, the ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers), to stop the so-called wait-listing service or WLS.
Last month, however, a California state court dismissed the case on the request of the registrar coalition, an attorney representing the registrars confirmed this week.
The registrars dropped the lawsuit because of changes in the market for registering expired domain names, said the attorney, Derek Newman of Newman & Newman, Attorneys at Law LLP in Seattle.
The WLS, in a process run by VeriSign, would allow those seeking a particular domain name to pay for the right to claim it in the event that the current registration expires.
Since being proposed in 2001, the WLS has sparked lawsuits and Congressional hearings because VeriSign also manages the Internets largest domains, .com and .net.
In their original lawsuit, the registrars alleged that the WLS threatened competition in the domain name arena and violated consumer protection laws. Now, the registrars, who already use back-ordering systems for expiring domain names before they reach VeriSign, doubt that the WLS will ever become a reality, Newman said.
“[The WLS] is still a technical possibility, but the plaintiffs dont believe its a practical reality at this time,” Newman said.
The registrars case also had faced a series of setbacks. It moved to California state court in August after a federal judge earlier dismissed many of its claims. Then, in November, a Los Angeles Superior Court judge dismissed parts of the state case before the registrars dropped the case.
Newman called the outcome an amicable settlement, but ICANN and VeriSign officials disputed that any traditional settlement had been reached.
“There was no settlement,” said VeriSign spokesman Tom Galvin, in a statement. “It was dismissed and that is where it ended.”
ICANNs general counsel, John Jeffrey, said that the Marina del Rey, Calif.-based nonprofit agreed not to seek court costs from the registrars but did not reach a settlement over money or actions.
“[The case] resolved the way we expected it would. It was dismissed,” Jeffrey said. “There was no settlement relating to money terms or anything like that.”
The registrar coalitions case was the last active case seeking to block the WLS. The plaintiffs in the case included ABR Products Inc., which does business as RegisterSite.com; Name.com LLC; R. Lee Chambers Company LLC, which does business as Domainstobeseen.com; Fiducia LLC; Spot Domain LLC; $6.25 Domains Network Inc., which does business as Esite Corp.; Ausregistry Group Pty Ltd.; and Bid It Win It Inc.
An earlier case brought by registrars Dotster Inc., Go Daddy Software Inc. and eNom Inc. was dismissed in 2003.
An Uncertain Future
Yet the wait-listing service continues to face an uncertain future. Since ICANNs board approved the WLS in March, it has languished. It appears to be heading nowhere fast and to be caught in the middle of a larger disagreement between ICANN and VeriSign over what types of services fall within ICANNs jurisdiction.
Last year, VeriSign sued ICANN, challenging ICANNs authority to dictate what types of services it can offer.
Meanwhile, the company that is slated to provide the technical services to run the WLS has gone to court to try to make the service a reality. SnapNames Inc. in November filed a lawsuit in a California state court against ICANN, seeking to compel ICANN to complete the WLS process.
SnapNames, of Portland, Ore., resorted to legal action because of ICANNs inaction since its board approved it, said Mason Cole, SnapNames vice president of marketing and corporate communications.
“WLS was proposed more than three years ago, and it has gone through debate after debate and review after review and vote after vote,” Cole said. “Between March 2004 and now, somebody hasnt been able to find a stamp to send this to the Department of Commerce for review.”
But ICANN officials say that the holdup lies in getting VeriSign to agree to an amendment to the WLS before it can go to the Department of Commerce. The federal Commerce Department must review and approve agreements between VeriSign and ICANN.
“Our board approved it and were quite willing to amend our agreement to allow VeriSign to implement WLS,” Jeffrey said. “At the end of the day, its really an issue between SnapNames and VeriSign.”
VeriSign, of Mountain View, Calif., maintains that the responsibility for moving the WLS forward remains with ICANN.
“The WLS is currently before ICANN and the balls in their court,” Galvin said.