VeriSign dealt another legal blow in ICANN suit

VeriSign Inc. lost another round in its battle against the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) on Thursday when a U.S. federal judge dismissed the company’s antitrust claims, filed in an amended complaint.

The decision, made in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, is the second setback for VeriSign in its attempt to prove that ICANN has overstepped its bounds as the Internet’s technical coordinating body. In May, the same court dismissed VeriSign’s original antitrust complaint.

VeriSign, which manages the .com and .net domain names, filed its initial suit against ICANN in February, claiming the group had acted outside its charter by delaying the introduction of new VeriSign services, such as the company’s Site Finder service which redirects requests for nonexistent Web addresses. In addition to accusing ICANN of being a de facto regulator of the domain name system, the Mountain View, Calif., company also alleged breach of contract, seeking unspecified damages.

After the original antitrust claims were dismissed, VeriSign filed an amended complaint in June alleging, among other claims, that ICANN’s processes were being controlled by the VeriSign’s competitors, which are members of various ICANN advisory groups.

Following a hearing on Monday, federal Judge A. Howard Matz dismissed the antitrust claims in the amended complaint. However, VeriSign can still refile its breach of contract claims against ICANN in state court.

In a 16-page ruling, Matz called VeriSign’s antitrust contentions “deficient.”

“There is nothing inherently conspiratorial about a ‘bottom-up’ policy development process that considers or even solicits input from advisory groups,” the ruling states.

ICANN President and Chief Executive Officer Paul Twomey, reached in Australia late Friday, called the ruling an important confirmation of ICANN’s structure.

“This judgment puts any myth that we are an antitrust cartel firmly to bed,” Twomey said. Twomey added that he was disappointed that VeriSign chose a legal channel for its complaints, saying that he would have preferred to sit down with the company and work the situation out.

“They want to play this out in court at the cost of Internet users,” Twomey said.

VeriSign will push the case forward in a California state court, Tom Galvin, the company’s vice president of government relations, said in a statement. “While the venue will change, our objective to gain clarity regarding ICANN’s appropriate role and the process for the introduction of new services does not,” he said. “We look forward to making our case in court so VeriSign and many other companies can get the clarity needed to run our businesses effectively.”

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