From October 2016 to March 2017 the team is joined by Guest Kats Rosie Burbidge and Eibhlin Vardy, and by InternKats Verónica Rodríguez Arguijo, Tian Lu and Hayleigh Bosher.

Thursday, 12 September 2013

An ICANN Crusade Over .Kosher and .Halal

Some of you might recognize that this Kat has a keen interest in the gTLDs that has led her to write on this topic on previous occasions (e.g. here and here).  During the month of September, this Kat has been, and will be, offline on various days in observance of a series of Jewish holidays that occur during the Fall season.  But, alas, even these days of rest, personal reflection and observance have failed to keep this Kat from thinking about gTLDs, especially because the latest controversy to reach her attention is related to gTLDs encompassing religious terminology. 

Even the Jewish New Year can't
keep IP Kat from pondering gTLDs.
According to this July 18 Bloomberg article, a dispute has been raised over the application for .kosher by Kosher Marketing Associates (KMA), a unit of OK Kosher Certification.  OK Kosher Certification is only one of several organizations that provide kosher certification for food products and ingredients, and upon learning of KMA’s application with ICANN for .kosher, five competing organizations opposed the KMA application.  A representative of OU Kosher, the world’s largest kosher certification organization, explained, 

“[w]e think that if the term ‘kosher,’ which has important meaning in the Jewish religion, is commercialized, it will do a disservice to how religion in general should be treated and will harm the kosher public specifically.”
In response, KMA proclaimed that it did not plan to leverage the domain unilaterally or exclusively, but that they would work with the competing groups, including OU.  However, a meeting between the various agencies failed to result in a cooperation agreement.

Wondering how important control over .kosher would be?  Despite the fact that Jews who observe the traditions of kashrut, consuming only those products certified as kosher, are a minority in the US, the revenues generated by the sale of kosher products are estimated to be about $17 Billion.  As such, an entity that controls the .kosher gTLD would have a big advantage over its competitors vying for the same consumers by promoting the .kosher domain as the one-stop resource for all things kosher.  [This assumes that these gTLDs actually gain traction with consumers who are used to finding their favorite brands on .com, .net, .co.uk, and other more traditional TLDs.]

Similarly, controversy surrounds the application by a single, private organization for the .Halal TLD.  Halal refers to permissiveness under the Muslim faith, especially in connection with certain types of food or food preparations.  The applicant, listed as Asia Green IT System Bilgisayar San. ve Tic. Ltd. Sti, apparently has the support of the Islamic Republic of Iran, according to its application on file with ICANN.  However, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and India have each filed oppositions to the application, and their oppositions are being considered by the Governmental Advisory Committee (GAC) of ICANN.  
As this Kat has commented before, there are so many gTLDs for which multiple parties are vying for control that the only fair way to assign them would be on a first-to-file basis or by auction, unless the applications raise issues concerning established trade marks or geographical indications of origin (though don't get this Kat started on disputes related to GIs... just read the comments to her prior post on this issue to see how it makes her head spin).  [Merpel notes that another method of tie breaking could be to withhold assignment of disputed gTLDs, but that would leave quite a few of them off the table.] 
Still, this Kat wonders whether the GAC will apply the same logic to both the .kosher and the .halal disputes.  Or will .halal receive special consideration because the opponents are sovereign nations rather than private, albeit religious, companies (as in the case of .kosher)?  Would any readers case to make a prediction? 

3 comments:

Andy J said...

I'm with Merpel on this. ICANN brought in gTLDs for entirely commercial reasons - and indeed stands to make a great deal of money selling them - and so it cannot be surprised by the sort of disputes which have arisen.
Given the multitude of words, not just in English but other languages too, that are readily available for use as gTLDs, excluding a relatively small number of the most contentious ones from the process seems much fairer than allocating them on the basis of either first to file or an auction. The problem with first to file is that it takes no account of stakeholders who have no wish to use apply for a particular TLD but do object to a rival obtaining it by default, and the obvious problem with an auction is that it favours the already powerful players and reinforces their ability to create a monopoly if that is their intention.

Anonymous said...

Allowing "contentious" strings to just be excluded would exclude all of them, and basically give a heckler's veto. There is not one string that didn't get someone objecting to it. Check out the public comments on string. Is it obvious to you that .catholic can be reasonably operated by the roman catholic church? 20 public comments (and you had to pay significant money to comment) think otherwise.

So you can be opposed to the general idea of expanding the TLD because the downside outweighs the upside, but once you accept the expansion, there is no such thing as an uncontroversial string.

If the opposition is credible, they had the opportunity to file a community objection. The OU did that in this case, so their letter to ICANN is a very clear indication that they do not expect to win through the normal channels. So what they really want is exceptional treatment for the .KOSHER string. .CHURCH, .BIBLE, .CATHOLIC and all the other religious strings that did not get GAC advice proceed, but .KOSHER should be treated as if it got GAC advice when it didn't.

Anyway, this obsession with the TLD name is honestly stupid. amazon.com is fine, but .amazon infringes on a geographic location. Seriously? No one thinks of a TLD as special in the general internet community. In fact, for most there are only two: .com and .org. Does anyone know about .travel, .museum, etc? Does anyone care?

Why is the divine right of some group to control the word at the top level, but the second level is a free for all (well it isn't, there are some rules, but not nearly as many - they are all about defined government names and country codes).

A TLD is run by a company (for-profit - .com - or not - .org), and the main thing they have to show is the technical competency to not start messing up the internet for everybody else. Everything else is branding that has to be established. The actual order of the letters in the string are just not as important as people insist. It gives you some marketing juice, but really this idea that .architect will have to mean to everybody that the domain holder is a licensed structural architect is just stupid (.ARCHITECT was rejected because of this perceived requirement). All it will mean is that some two-bit country will give out architect licenses to anyone who asks, and voila, problem solved.

It is all about branding and execution, not some inherent meaning of a word.

Michael Factor said...

Trademarks are supposed to be distinctive and therefore words like Kosher cannot be monopolized.
Classically, high level domain names were typically generic, but this ICANN business opening high level domains to all and sundry on a sort of first come first served basis, leaves me wondering why .Kosher should be treated differently than any other service provider, think .porn, .edu, etc.

For those, like me, with an interest in things Jewish, you may be interested to know that there was a trademark dispute between rival factions of the Bobov hassidic group, where one faction filed marks for Bobov, bobover Rebbe, Admor MiBobov (grand Rabbi of Bobov), etc. see http://blog.ipfactor.co.il/2007/04/24/rival-bobov-factions-in-trademark-dispute/

The OU Kashrut supervising body has a registered trademark for their logo and they enforce it against food providers who they do not supervise - see http://blog.ipfactor.co.il/2010/12/26/orthodox-union-sue-for-fraudulent-use-of-their-kashruth-mark-claiming-trademark-infringement/

Personally, I can see why competing Kosher food supervising bodies may be narked with a competitor getting the top level domain, but it is really like many of my competitors in Israel who have regular domains like Israel-patent, patent-israel, ipisrael, etc. Essentially, they are saying that they are provide a basic service in a specific field. Savvy consumers are not impressed by this type of thing. Unfortunately, the cost of legal battles over .kosher will eventually be rolled over to the consumer as a mark up in food prices, and I think that is a shame.

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