For the half-year to 31 December 2014, the IPKat's regular team is supplemented by contributions from guest bloggers Rebecca Gulbul, Lucas Michels and Marie-Andrée Weiss.

Regular round-ups of the previous week's blogposts are kindly compiled by Alberto Bellan.

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

ICANN: Amazon Is Also A Region

Not likely to be the owner of .amazon
In what seems to be the second most popular news item of the day here in the US – second to the arrival of the UK’s newest royal – the Governmental Advisory Committee of ICANN has recommended against approving Amazon.com’s application for the top level domain .amazon.  [Says Merpel: Poor Amazon.com, first some of its gTLD applications were targeted on the basis of anticompetition, and now on the basis of geographical indications.]  The GAC’s recommendation is in response to an objection submitted by a group of Latin American countries through which the Amazon River runs.  [ICANN is entitled to ignore or overrule the GAC's recommendation, but it is not expected to do so in this instance.] 

This Amazon has been around longer
The objecting countries sent a letter to the GAC, reported here by the New York Times, in which they remind the GAC that, “[i]n particular ‘.amazon’ is a geographic name that represents important territories of some of our countries, which have relevant communities, with their own culture and identity directly connected with the name.”  Amazon.com is not alone in discovering that its application is opposed because of a connection to a geographic region. The apparel company Patagonia withdrew its application for .patagonia because of objections from Latin American countries. 

These tussles over brand names that double as geographical indicators makes this Kat wonder: who should become the owner, if anyone, of gTLDs that incorporate geographical indicators?  The .amazon application objection was jointly filed by a coalition of countries including Brazil, Chile, Argentina, Uruguay and Peru. Would they seek to own and manage .amazon together?  Or compete with each other for the right to ownership? Similarly, who should own .champagne or .roquefort, which are both regions and product classifications? 

This Kat thinks that ICANN will have a difficult job deciding which applicant is most deserving of gTLDs for which multiple applicants have applied, and she would love to hear reader thoughts on the fairest methods ICANN might employ to assign gTLDs.

8 comments:

Nicola Coppola Bournemouth University said...

Difficult job indeed.
Riccardo Ricci Curbastro, President of EFOW , the European Federation of Origin Wines, already makes the strategy of EFOW very clear: if the decision on ".wine" and ".vin" would not be “satisfactory”, "we will ask all of the European operators to boycott these domain names. The European Union accounts for nearly 65% of the global wine market, a massive boycott would undermine the candidates’ economic model. It would also discredit ICANN’s policy. As provided by law, we would also ask courts to remove all domain names that jeopardise the reputation of our GIs".

Miri Frankel said...

Dear Nicola - Thank you for this information! Has the EFOW itself applied for any gTLDs or did any individual members of the federation apply for .wine and .vin?

For the benefit of other readers, the content of the EFOW statement can be found on its homepage here: http://www.efow.eu/

I shall be watching with anticipation how this unfolds!

Jesus Ivan Mora Gonzalez, Bournemouth University said...

Who should become the owner of gTLD's that incorporate GI?. From a semiotic perspective, the key thing would consist in delimiting the level of similarity (scope of fair competition) between the signifier and the referent, i.e., what is the moral justification to control descriptive words in the markeplace?

Nicola Coppola Bournemouth University said...

Dear Miri,
I don’t have this information but I assume they did not. In fact, the President of EFOW in his letter sent to ICANN in March 2013 opposing the application for “.wine” and “.vin” put forward by four private firms not linked to the wine sector, makes no reference to any other pending application. The letter, which also calls on ICANN to set up a dispute resolution system, can be found on the ICANN website:
http://www.icann.org/en/news/correspondence/curbastro-to-crocker-et-al-12mar13-en
I will also be watching the next moves of ICANN, which allowed 30 days to the European wine producers to find an agreement.
I believe that the debate revolving around the justification of GIs as a form of IP right (also highlighted in the previous comment by my colleague Jesus Ivan Gonzales) will likely arise again after the ICANN final decision.

Miri Frankel said...

Thank you, Nicola and Jesus Ivan Gonzales! While the dispute resolution system EFOW proposes sounds sensible, I'm still left wondering how disputes should fairly be resolved. There’s certainly no easy solution. With second level domains, say on .com, the domain typically goes to the first to buy or to the highest bidder in an auction situation. Though, of course, ownership can be challenged on the basis of IPRs, usually trademark/brand rights.

I am not sure how disputes over the use of GIs in a second level domain (or the GI as a gTLD) would be resolved. For example, would the EFOW support Moet & Chandon's bid (hypothetical, as far as I know) to own champagne.wine or the .champagne gTLD? What if Moet & Chandon and Veuve Clicquot both applied for the same GI-based domain? Or does EFOW view the situation similarly to Jesus Ivan Gonzales – that, morally, these geographical indications should not be ownable by anyone? The fairest method of distribution (in my view) is usually based in a commercial model like “first to apply”, but at the same time the IPRs, including GIs, must be protected: What if a retailer like Amazon.com applied, in competition with Moet & Chandon, for the champagne.wine domain; what if it applied in competition with Comite Champagne? Perhaps protective societies like Comite Champagne should have the priority for GI domain registrations. But then again, let’s not forget that Comité Régional du Tourisme de Champagne-Ardenne may have an equal claim to the geographical name…

My head spins from these questions! 

Andy J said...

And just to add to the conumdrum, if it was decided that GIs could not be accepted as gTLDs, what would happen where a gTLD which had been legitimately awarded to an entity subsequently became a GI. Would the pre-existence of a gTLD count against the GI application, serving as a form of dilution of the distinctiveness claimed by the region concerned?

Nicola Coppola Bournemouth University said...

So many interesting questions that deserve an answer.
The domain name champagne.co has already been disputed before the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center, which held its decision in 2011:
http://www.wipo.int/amc/en/domains/search/text.jsp?case=DCO2011-0026
The situation here appears to be even more complex, I am not surprised that the head spins (and this does not depend on alcoholic level of the subject matter, it would be the same with foodstuffs names).

Anonymous said...

Further, not every jurisdiction recognizes every GI. I remember buying "Champagne" from Australia in Australia.

A simple solution would be to auction it to the highest bidder as it is done e.g. with certain frequency bands (3G, LTE).

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