Verisign sues ICANN over delay in services

  • Grant Gross (IDG News Service)
  • 27 February, 2004 11:35

VeriSign has filed a lawsuit against the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), accusing the organisation of overstepping its contractual authority and improperly attempting to regulate VeriSign's business.

The lawsuit, filed in US District Court for the Central District of California, seeks an undetermined amount of damages from ICANN, the non-profit corporation responsible for allocating Internet Protocol address space and managing top-level domains. VeriSign is also asking the court for an injunction to force ICANN to adhere to its contact with VeriSign.

VeriSign alleges that ICANN, by straying from its charter and agreement to be a technical coordination body, has improperly attempted to become the "de facto regulator of the domain name system and in doing so stifled the introduction of new services that benefit Internet users and promote the growth of the Internet," according to a VeriSign announcement. VeriSign accuses ICANN of overstepping its authority in contracts with VeriSign and the US Department of Commerce to delay VeriSign from offering new Internet services not related to ICANN's mission.

VeriSign accuses ICANN of dragging its feet on allowing VeriSign to offer new services such as a wait list service, essentially a waiting list for expired domain names, and internationalised domain names, which are domain names in non-English characters, said a VeriSign spokesman. VeriSign also objects to ICANN objections forcing the company to take down its Site Finder Internet search service, said Tom Galvin, vice president of government relations for VeriSign.

"At the heart of the lawsuit is a contract dispute between two corporations," Galvin said. "ICANN's ambition has exceeded its authority."

An ICANN spokesman said yesterday the organisation had just heard of the lawsuit. He didn't have an immediate comment.

VeriSign does not want to end the role of ICANN, just define a clear and credible mission for the organisation, Galvin said. "There's a lot of ambiguity for ICANN about what their role is, and complete ambiguity about offering new services," he added. "Working the ICANN process is like being nibbled to death by a duck. It makes no sense, and in the end, you're dead in the water."

The VeriSign lawsuit seeks to define the process for introducing new Internet-related services, Galvin said. Companies like VeriSign need clarity on the process so that they can decide whether to invest more money in the Internet, he added. "While this is a simple contact dispute, there's a lot at stake here about innovation," he said.