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ICANN Publishes New gTLD "Contention Sets" as Identified by Its String Similarity Experts

February 28, 2013


ICANN defines a "contention set" as a group of two or more applications proposing identical or confusingly similar gTLD strings. All applications for identical strings were automatically assigned to exact-match contention sets. During the initial evaluation phase, ICANN's String Similarity Review Panel reviewed the remaining applications to identify those that it believed to be visually similar to other applied-for strings or to existing TLDs. Those applications that the panel deemed to be similar to a degree that was likely to result in consumer confusion were grouped together into non-exact-match contention sets. This decision is of extreme importance to the implicated applications because of the nature of ICANN's contention set process: only one application from each contention set can ultimately be delegated.

ICANN's latest communication

Although the publication of the list of contention sets was originally scheduled for March 1st, ICANN made the list available on its website on the evening of February 26. Out of 232 contention sets, comprising 754 total applications, only 2 contention sets include non-exact matches: ".hoteis" and ".hotels"; and ".unicorn" and ".unicom"'. Notably, the 7 applications for ".hotel" are, of course, in an exact-match contention set, but are not in contention with either ".hoteis" or ".hotels".

Our view

The publication of the contention sets may be just the beginning of the new gTLD application wrangling considering:

- Applicants or existing TLD operators who expected that certain strings would be placed in contention sets may now be forced to consider filing objections in order to impede certain applications' progress.

- Affected parties may challenge ICANN's decision to put certain strings in a contention set or not.

- ICANN may, apparently on its own initiative, make additional changes to the contention sets. (Although such changes are unlikely absent applicant challenges, ICANN labeled the contention set list "as of 26 February", and made no statement regarding whether the list was final or not.)


If you would like more information on this topic or any other ICANN-related subject, please do not hesitate to contact us. We are available to assist you in assessing potential effects on your application and in responding to ICANN's announcement.

For more information, please contact the professional(s) listed below, or your regular Crowell & Moring contact.

John L. Murino
Partner – Washington, D.C.
Phone: +1.202.624.2663