DOJ Closes Probe of VeriSign Over .Web Domain

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By Alexis Kramer

The Justice Department has closed its investigation into VeriSign Inc.'s involvement in an auction for the .web internet domain, giving the .com and .net operator a chance to acquire what could be the next big domain.

The department’s antitrust division sent VeriSIgn, a Reston, Va.-based internet infrastructure provider, a civil investigative demand in January 2017 after the results of the .web auction. The DOJ told VeriSign Jan. 10 the investigation is closed, VeriSign said in a Securities and Exchange Commssion filing.

.Web applicant Nu Dot Co LLC had won the domain for $135 million in an auction run by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names & Numbers, the non-profit entity that administers internet technical functions. VeriSign announced days later that it had provided funds for Nu Dot Co’s bid and planned to acquire the rights to the domain. VeriSign hadn’t applied for .web.

The auction spurred a lawsuit against ICANN by domain name registry Donuts Inc., one of six other .web applicants. Donuts alleged that ICANN failed to properly investigate Nu Dot Co prior to the auction. That lawsuit is ongoing in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

VeriSign said it “anticipates” Nu Dot Co will execute an agreement with ICANN and assign the domain to VeriSign, upon ICANN’s consent.

ICANN spokesman James Cole told Bloomberg Law Jan. 10 that ICANN will now follow its processes for delegating .web.

The Justice Department and a Nu Dot Co spokesperson didn’t immediately respond to Bloomberg Law requests for comment.

To contact the reporter on this story: Alexis Kramer in Washington at akramer@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Keith Perine at kperine@bloomberglaw.com

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