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What Happens If Two Applications for a New gTLD Are a City and a Family Name?

Jean Guillon

When applying for a new gTLD, what happens if two applications for the same extension are a city and a family name? Which one wins?

Let's imagine that a person whose family name is "Marseille" applied for the .MARSEILLE new gTLD in the next round of the ICANN new gTLD program. What if there was a .MARSEILLE new gTLD too but as the name of the French city?

When the Family name is the name of a city

Even if the ICANN new gTLD applicant guidebook did not allow persons to submit an application in the first round, anyone could create a company using his or her family name and submit his application: this was perfectly legal and will probably remain like this in future rounds of the program.

Note that there is an existing case: it is known that one applicant applied for his first name and family name as a new domain name extension in the first round of the ICANN new gTLD program: it is the .RICHARDLI new gTLD.

Now: what happens when your family name is the name of a city?

"Marseille" is a famous French family name

A friend of mine's family name is "Marseille" and I wondered what would happen if he created a company named "Marseille" — or if he trademarked his family name like I did — and decided to submit a new gTLD application in the next round of the ICANN new gTLD program. Such an application could receive an objection from the French city of Marseille or he could object to the city's application too but — precisely — what could happen in such case of a conflicting geo/family application?

Some experts answered the question:

1) John McCormac from HosterStats.com (the biggest domain and webhosting statistics site):

"That's a legal question but I would think that the rights of the city could take precedence unless there is a lot of strong IP/TM rights supporting the family name application. The city may be able to object but there may be multiple cities sharing the same name with families. And then it may come down to which city is oldest. Think Paris, France versus Paris, Texas".

2) Dirk Krischenowski from dotBERLIN GmbH & Co. KG (the .BERLIN registry):

"If you apply the rules of the 2012 AGB (we don't know to which extend the 2020 AGB may have changed in this respect) the answer for family names that match capital city names is clear: you need a letter of support or no-objection from the relevant city authority.

If the applied-for family name is a city name but no one, even not ICANN's geographic names panel, objects the application may go through smoothly. If you search at www.geonames.org for instance for Monash, Norton, Lancaster and many other .brand applications you will find names of municipalities with the same name. But all the applications were going through, the same of many generic term gTLD.

And then there is a large grey zone where there had been not many cases (like .spa) where the city objected but was not found by ICANN to fall into the geographic names category.

I hope I could give you guidance to your question."

3) Roland LaPlante, Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer Afilias (multiple registry for 20 new gTLDs):

"The issue of geo-names such as city names is currently under active discussion in the Government Advisory Committee and other stakeholders in the ICANN community. I expect that, in the event of a conflict between an individual and a city, the city would win. This is because the city will usually have become the official owner of the name in some manner (e.g. in the ISO3166 list), and the official list trumps other claims. Further, if the city does not apply and the individual does, the individual must get permission from the city to proceed with the name."

By Jean Guillon, New gTLDs "only".
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Province names also matter Rubens Kuhl  –  Jun 04, 2018 11:05 AM PST

Note that a good number of major city names are also state/province/department names, and those even in AGB 2012 would require letter(s) of support/non-objection. It's not the case of MARSEILLE, though.

And as Dirk mentioned, next round AGB is still being discussed at Work Track 5 of the Subsequent Procedures PDP, so anything right now is a guess.

Status of Work Track 5 Jean Guillon  –  Jun 05, 2018 1:18 AM PST

Hello Rubens,
I went to the document but I believe that it can be decrypted by the few people who wrote it "only" (I'll be honest = I am lazy reading it): in one line, what are the major changes being discussed on this document?

It'll be interesting to see how the Todd Knarr  –  Jun 04, 2018 1:42 PM PST

It'll be interesting to see how the various hierarchies interact (eg. multiple cities with the same name, states/provinces with the same name as the city (eg. Kansas City, MO, US) and so on). Though I think the old first-come-first-served among those with a legal basis for using the name has it's advantages.

Stars welcome Jean Guillon  –  Jun 05, 2018 1:29 AM PST

I quite like the .RICHARDLI new gTLD which is the only first + family name to have been submitted as the name of a company. Sad that it is not in use. I wonder if there will be famous people to submit their name as a new gTLD application. Actually, there are 6 places named "Trump" according to Wikipedia.

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