The decision of ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers), the American private domain name system technical oversight body, to recognise new generic top-level domains on the Internet worries the wine sector. EFOW, the European Federation of Origin Wines, believes that the applications related to the wine sector (“.wine” “.vin”) may lead to abuses of Geographical Indication (GI) wines. EFOW calls on governments and the European Commission to ask ICANN to put forward guarantees.
The development of the e-commerce has been beneficial for all economic sectors, including the wine sector. The creation of new generic top-level domains (nowadays there are about 20 such as “.com”, “.eu” etc.) is a real opportunity for the wine sector. Nevertheless, it also constitutes a major risk: seeing anyone use GI names to their benefit and the appearance of a speculative market around the sale of domain names.
ICANN has recently decided to recognise new generic top-level domains (“strings”). The objective is to enable a community, a brand or a territory to register a distinctive Web address on the basis of its’ activity. 4 applications related to the wine sector have been filed: 3 private firms are competing to manage “.wine” and a fourth “.vin”. Once ICANN determines which registrars obtain these strings, these firms will be able to commercialise them allowing individuals and/or organisations to combine these strings to a second-level domain name to create a personalised Web address as “chianti.wine”, “champagne.vin”, “rioja.wine”, “port.wine” and many others.
None of these four projects nor ICANN rules commit to the protection of GI wine names. More importantly, these companies have already announced their intention to auction to the highest bidder the second-level domain name. By doing so an address as for instance “bordeaux.vin” could be sold to a company or individual with no connection to Bordeaux wines. Since no objection procedure has been developed to protect GIs, unlike brands, EFOW considers that ICANN cannot accept these applications as such and must adapt the rules of the game.
At a recent meeting in Beijing, the GAC (Governmental Advisory Committee) of ICANN – whose members are governments and the European Commission – has expressed reservations about these four applications and has given these firms 3 months (until July) to further discussions with the sector. This warning is the result of the mobilisation of a part of the sector and of several wine producing governments as well as the European Commission. Nevertheless, the ICANN Board which wasn’t pleased with this recommendation has decided to open a public comment period in an attempt to circumvent this opinion.
This is why EFOW has decided to launch the debate and to warn consumers about potential frauds that they may suffer in the near future. It also wishes to alert the wine sector of potential extortions they may face (buying second-level domain names at prohibitive prices). EFOW’s President, Mr Riccardo Ricci Curbastro, considers that “the Internet is nowadays an essential tool for information and trade development. The lack of regulation of domain names by ICANN may increase usurpations and counterfeiting’s of our names. It is therefore essential to define precise rules not only protect our intellectual property rights, but also to protect consumers against frauds on the Web. We are not against the development of new domain names but we believe ICANN should establish fair competition rules“.
EFOW hopes that other stakeholders will stand by its’ side and that wine producing governments and the European Commission will intensify their efforts to reason with ICANN and force the Board to provide protection procedures for GIs.