The proposed generic top level domains (gTLD) .WINE and .VIN has caused considerable controversy over the past year. As part of ICANN’s new expansion program, the key objective of the program was designed to generate increased choice and competition in the digital space. Despite ICANN’s benevolent intentions, such action has caused an uproar from many global brands.
One such instance involves the french government’s resistance to allow businesses to register .vin and .wine. The French minister for digital affairs, Axelle Lemaire vehemently protested against the selling of such domains fearing that doing so would put trade agreements regarding the sale of region specific products at risk. Strict rules govern the labelling of wine and protect geographical indications GI of products. GI’s are protected geographic terms like cheddar, parma and champagne. The introduction of new gTLD’s proposes a threat to this system of classification. Unlike other forms of intellectual property, GI’s are not owned by a singular person or enterprise. Rather, they are collectively owned by the producers of that specific area. France has countless numbers of GI related products. Brand owners are wary as to what extent new gTLD’s will cause consumer confusion. A winemaker could register particular domains for URLs that deliberately mislead customers, for instance, champagne.wine or bordeaux.wine. This idea of ‘gaming the system’ has caused great contention for brand owners.
Lemaire called for a new, more transparent general assembly to be established to govern the domain name system. France is not alone in its resistance to the .wine and .vin extension. Winemakers in the US, Spain and Portugal have similarly indicated a certain apprehension. Furthermore the European Commission has formally submitted an appeal against ICANN’s decision to release this particular extension.
Australia on the other hand is a strong proponent of the controversial gTLD. Recently in 2014, an Australian diplomat, Keith Besgrove protested that setting further terms and conditions could unfairly restrict the use of geographical indication (GI’s) related terms. This would allow brands with GI status to have a monopoly on the online market. This would unjustifiably limit businesses to access new global, online markets.
No conclusion has yet been decided upon but the whole dispute highlights the two sides of the domain name debate.
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