In line with Alibaba’s mission and purpose for the .TAOBAO gTLD, it is first and foremost important for Alibaba to safeguard and protect its key “TAOBAO” brand and trademark at the top level of the DNS’ hierarchy. Such protection does not only extend to the actual registration, delegation and use of the TLD, but also to the domain names that are registered therein, and how these domain names are used.
Considering the fact that the actual award and delegation of the .TAOBAO gTLD to Alibaba is subject to the successful evaluation of our application, we have not yet defined in detail:
• the types of domain names that will be registered;
• who will be entitled to select which domain names will be registered
• who will be entitled to register such domain names;
• who will be entitled to use such domain names, and;
• which types of use will be allowed or recommended.
As we believe that the development and implementation of one or more business cases could likely take a couple of months or even years, we have only focused on a number of high-level characteristics of our plans in relation to the operation of the .TAOBAO gTLD, as described above.
By all means, it is in Alibaba’s self-interest to, on the one hand, make the most of this initiative, promote its own business interests together with those of its key affiliates, business partners, and consumers, whilst mitigating risks for the brands and brand reputation of such stakeholders and reducing the (social) costs for others.
In this context, Alibaba will devise policies that encompass and comprise the following features:
At least during the initial months or even years following the delegation of the .TAOBAO gTLD to Alibaba, this extension is likely going to be a so-called “single registrant TLD” as contemplated by ICANN in Article 4.5 of the template Registry Operator Agreement (“Transition of Registry upon Termination of Agreement”). For the avoidance of doubt, a “single registrant TLD” is a TLD where “(i) all domain name registrations in the TLD are registered to, and maintained by, Registry Operator for its own exclusive use, and (ii) Registry Operator does not sell, distribute or transfer control or use of any registrations in the TLD to any third party that is not an Affiliate of Registry Operator.”
Therefore, parties who are not Alibaba or – insofar and to the extent Alibaba deems appropriate – an affiliate will not be entitled to register domain names in the .TAOBAO gTLD.
Alibaba believes this to be in line with two of the main elements in its vision and mission statement, namely:
• Protecting and safeguarding the .TAOBAO gTLD, by keeping full control over the entire operation of the .TAOBAO registry and most if not all domain names registered therein; and
• Guaranteeing to Alibaba’s key stakeholders who are interacting with Alibaba and, as the case may be, its affiliates, by using domain name registrations in .TAOBAO that they are in fact interacting with the brand owner or its authorized affiliates or business partners.
Consequently, there will be no (social) costs for non-eligible (third) parties in registering domain names, given the fact that they will be unable to do so in the .TAOBAO gTLD in the first place.
However, even if only Alibaba (and, as the case may be, Alibaba’s affiliates) will be entitled to register domain names, this does not exclude the hypothesis that disputes may arise with one or more third parties as regards domain names that are registered in the .TAOBAO gTLD.
In order to avoid these risks, Alibaba intends to implement the following policies and processes:
First, the domain names to be registered by Alibaba and, as the case may be, its affiliates and⁄or business partners, could relate to the following:
• registered trademarks of Alibaba;
• names of the affiliates and⁄or business partners of Alibaba;
• names of departments within Alibaba, its affiliates and⁄or business partners;
Furthermore, Alibaba envisages registering a fair number of generic words that are directly or indirectly related to the day-to-day business activities and operations of Alibaba and its affiliates.
Prior to effectively registering such domain names in the .TAOBAO gTLD, Alibaba will require its legal and intellectual property department to review the list of these domain names on a regular basis in order to satisfy itself that they will not infringe the rights of third parties.
In any case, Alibaba shall claim to have a legitimate interest in these domain names, as they are merely descriptive of the activities, products or services of Alibaba and⁄or its affiliates. So even if one or more of these domain names would be protected by a registered trademark, held by a third party, it is likely that a claim under the Uniform Dispute Resolution Policy or Uniform Rapid Suspension policy will fail.
As regards the names referred to in Specification 5 to the template Registry Operator Agreement, Alibaba will follow the processes and procedures established by ICANN and the Governmental Advisory Committee.
If Alibaba would determine, at its sole discretion, that it will gradually allow certain categories of stakeholders to register domain names in the .TAOBAO gTLD in their own name, Alibaba will devise policies to that effect.
However, Alibaba will at all times be entitled to restrict, limit or expand:
• the category or categories of stakeholders who will be entitled to register one or more domain names in the .TAOBAO gTLD, including their criteria for qualification;
• the choice of domain name(s) registered in the .TAOBAO gTLD by and per such eligible stakeholder (category);
• the use made by an and per eligible stakeholder of a domain name registered in the .TAOBAO gTLD;
• the transfer of domain names registered in .TAOBAO;
Alibaba shall reserve the right to subject the registration or use of a domain name to internal approval processes and procedures, at each and every step of the domain name life cycle.
Given the fact that Alibaba may release such available domain names post launch in a highly controlled manner, this also reduces the likelihood that two or more applicants qualify for the registration of the same domain name in the .TAOBAO top-level domain;
As a method of last resort, and subject to the actual domain name registration policy adopted by the Registry Operator and in force at the time of registration, domain names will be allocated on a first-come, first-served basis.
In any event, Alibaba reserves the right to change or restrict any policies, procedures and practices at any point in time if it is of the opinion that there would be a risk that the reputation of the “ALIBABA” or “TAOBAO” brands, or the brands of its stakeholders, would be damaged.
The Applicant intends to make the .TAOBAO top-level domain available to qualifying domain name registrants at an acceptable cost to them. Furthermore, Alibaba reserves the right to bundle certain products and services with the registration of domain names in the .TAOBAO gTLD. Furthermore, Alibaba may offer additional services that intend to drive Internet traffic from URLs operated by Alibaba towards domain names registered, controlled, and⁄or operated by such third parties.
So, in brief:
1. The Applicant ⁄ Registry Operator may reserve, delegate and use a potentially large number of domain names that are directly or indirectly relevant to Applicant’s business in its own name. Since some of these domain names could be of a descriptive nature, the chances for qualifying ⁄ eligible applicants ⁄ registrants to register such domain names after the launch will be limited;
2. The Registry Operator shall be entitled at all times to release available domain names post launch in a highly controlled manner, which also reduces the likelihood that two or more applicants qualify for the registration of the same domain name in the .TAOBAO top-level domain;
3. As a method of last resort, and subject to the actual domain name registration policy adopted by the Registry Operator and in force at the time of registration, domain names will be allocated on a first-come, first-served basis, however always taking into account the rights and legitimate interests of third parties, including but not limited to trademark rights;
4. The Applicant intends to make the .TAOBAO top-level domain available to qualifying domain name registrants at an acceptable cost to them, to be determined if and when the Applicant would decide at its own discretion to allow third parties to register domain names, and – as the case may be – bundle such domain name registrations with additional added-value products and services generally offered by Alibaba in the course of its ordinary business activities;
5. If the Applicant ⁄ Registry Operator will be required to increase the fees for the registration of domain names, such increases will keep pace with comparable market rates for such domain name registrations. However, the Registry Operator shall at all times be entitled to bundle the registration of domain names with other products or services offered by or on behalf of Alibaba at a fee to be set by the Registry Operator.