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The Grapes of Wrath? An Insight Into .WINE, the Most Hotly Debated TLD in Government Circles

Jean Guillon

Everybody agrees, all .WINE applicants want to find where the buck is going to stop, as far as the strange stalemate we have been in for so many months. Situation? "What situation?" I hear you asking.

In July 2012, when applications and the name of their applicants were released to the public, it appeared that 3 applicants had the same idea, when they applied for a .WINE Top-Level Domain.

Wine Geographical Indications

Battle lines were drawn over whether the contentious issue of "wine Geographical Indications" were protected or not. According to Wikipedia, "a geographical indication (GI) is a name or sign used on certain products which corresponds to a specific geographical location or origin (e.g. a town, region, or country). The use of a GI may act as a certification that the product possesses certain qualities, is made according to traditional methods, or enjoys a certain reputation, due to its geographical origin".

New gTLD Applicants' answers to the question of whether they were supporting GIs under .WINE were straightforward — according to the rules, laid down by ICANN in its 'Applicant Guidebook'. Applicants for .WINE all followed the rules to the letter and rights protection mechanisms that all registries are bound to employ, in the form of the independently operated and impartial Trademark Clearinghouse should offer sufficient Rights Owner protection. Actually, this is true because no applicant would have invested so much money in a new domain name extension with the possibility that it might not be accepted at the very end, because of a lack of rights owner protection.

Appalling lack of consensus

Why was there so much emphasis put into providing additional rights owner protection for this specific TLD? Is the reason that wine is a very meaningful part of French culture or is it because it is a luxury product that the French feel is their own? Why, in such a short period of time, have we seen so much negative and confusing communications? How could the international wine network's ongoing trade disputes about GIs affect an Internet Top Level Domain in such a fashion? Why has the .WINE TLD become the only one on which the GAC (Governmental Advisory Committee) is still unable to achieve governmental consensus? Why was it necessary to go all the way up to the level of the vice President of European Commission to try to resolve such an issue?

Appalling...

Although GAC representatives had met with the three TLD applicants to discuss — and hopefully resolve — the issue, they have recently proved unable to do so. It is amusing to point out that the decision to approve the TLD, or not, has been announced three times already: at the ICANN meeting in Beijing, at the ICANN meeting in Durban and again, at the recent ICANN meeting in Buenos Aires. At the time of writing, the issue is it is still pending.

Approached by GAC representatives, it appears that some applicants have suggested solutions. At least one applicant's proposed solution is protected with patents, testament to the seriousness, consideration and desire to find a workable solution that they are giving to the .WINE registry; others want to only stick to the rights protection mechanisms required by ICANN in the Applicant Guidebook.

A good example of how the ICANN system works

The .WINE new gTLD is a good example of a situation that shows how ICANN is still a bit green on commercial necessity: few investors will ever inject money in such projects with a concrete set of rules that are open to change long after the 'final' rules have been approved and hundreds of millions of dollars in application fees have been accepted. If the question were to be asked again, there is no doubt that many applicants would consider not applying due to the constantly changing rules and requirements. The only positive thought on all of this is that the .WINE TLD has generated a lot of talking points. While most of the publicity is about delays, changes in direction and lack of consensus at a governmental level, if agreement is finally reached the .WINE Top Level Domain may finally start TLD starts bringing something to the consumer.

By the way...

Did you know champagne.wine and bordeaux.wine are in the ICANN list of blocked domain names for .WINE, as well as many others? This means… no one will be able to register these domain names for a while anyway.

By Jean Guillon, New generic Top-Level Domains' specialist
Related topics: Domain Names, ICANN, New TLDs
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