After Losing Suit, VeriSign Files Another ICANN Complaint

Rhett Pardon
LOS ANGELES — VeriSign Inc. has decided to continue its antitrust claims against the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers despite having a similar case thrown out last week in U.S. District Court, XBiz has learned.

VeriSign, the registry managing .com and .net domains, filed the pared-down suit Friday in Los Angeles Superior Court, a company spokesman confirmed Tuesday.

In the latest suit, VeriSign focuses its complaint on breach-of-contract allegations and asks the court to rule for a declaratory judgment that ICANN should stay out of its business.

VeriSign contends the contractual agreement it has with ICANN does not disallow such services as Site Finder and Wait List Service that VeriSign wants to offer.

The company claims these services do not require ICANN approval. ICANN disagrees, and VeriSign contends this costs the company money in delays.

One of the services VeriSign wants to offer is Site Finder, which offers links to possible intended destinations when surfers query for nonexistent domain names. Another is Wait List Service, which recaptures soon-to-expire domain names.

The new VeriSign complaint is similar to the antitrust conspiracy theories that the company contended in its original February suit.

In the suit decided on last week in U.S. District Court, a judge tossed antitrust claims of conspiracy under Section 1 of the Sherman Act, concluding that participation by six VeriSign competitors that advise ICANN’s board is not enough to give rise to antitrust liability because “participation” in the process is not the same thing as “control” of the board’s ultimate decisions.

“VeriSign’s theory seems to be that the advisory bodies were the de facto decision-makers because the Board essentially rubber-stamped all of their recommendations,” U.S. District Court Judge A. Howard Matz wrote.

ICANN, which the court described as “an unusual organization,” is a nonprofit corporation created in 1998 to handle domain name administrative and policymaking duties delegated to it by the U.S. Department of Commerce.

“That the [ICANN] board ultimately may have adopted an advisory group’s policy recommendation, or that it was common practice for the board to do so, does not mean that the board merely ‘rubber stamped’ the proposals and allowed itself to be controlled by VeriSign’s competitors,” the court reasoned.

The U.S. District Court case case is VeriSign Inc. vs. Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, No. CV-04-1292 AHM.