THURSDAY, 22 NOVEMBER 2012
Early warnings and gTLDs: or what's the difference between wine and vin?
Class 46 is again grateful to Jean-François Vanden Eynde for helping us to untangle the maze of issues facing trade mark owners, and indeed the bodies responsible for the management and control of geographical indications, on account of the introduction of generic top-level domains for internet addresses.  In this piece he brings Class 46 readers up to speed on the sudden rash of early warnings which it now falls to us all to analyse:

Yesterday, the Governmental Advisory Committee (GAC) released more than 200 hundred early warnings. According to the applicant guidebook, an early warning is a notice concerning an application providing the applicant with an indication that the application is seen as potentially sensitive or problematic by one or more governments.

In other words, governments send a notification that an applied-for gTLD string might be contrary to a national law, and to try to address any concerns with the applicant. And this is the point I would like to raise. How will ICANN work through the different national sensitivities to ensure that we do not get into a cumbersome situation? 

To illustrate my position, I will take two examples (.gmbh and .wine).

SARL or GMBH applications have been objected as they refer to company forms in specific countries. The .GMBH GAC description states that 

"the Government of Germany wishes to observe that the term “gmbh” as an abbreviation is linked to a specific corporate form for companies (“Gesellschaft mit beschränkter Haftung”, which corresponds to a Limited Liability Company or LLC in the English speaking countries)”. 

Taking a closer look at all warnings launched by Germany, there is no trace of objections concerning .llc extensions. In other words, Germany expressed some concerns about .gmbh, but not about .llc. If we pursue this logic, we find that none of the English-speaking governments raised any concern about one of the .llc applications.

Now, if the confusion caused by the coexistence of gmbh and llc may be somewhat limited because .gmbh is specific to Germany, the same may not true for two similar generic Jean-François Vanden Eynde (eBrand Services).

Let’s now take .vin: the two .vin applications have been objected to. The early warning explains that wine is a regulated product and that 

"any product that does not comply with these rules cannot be marketed under the denomination “wine” or “vin” in French”. 

The GAC representatives propose the implementation of objection procedures to safeguard the protection of geographical indications.

If we analyse the list of all applications, there are three .wine applications which have not been objected by any GAC members. Those three applications do not offer any specific geographical indication protection mechanisms.

Concretely, this could lead to some complex issues. We will face two gTLDs (.vin and .wine) defining the same product in different languages and representing the same industry, but their registration policies could be different due to some national sensitivities. How will ICANN tackle this issues? Will .vin and .wine be in the same string contention? Will a GAC send a GAC advice later in the gTLD process?

Now what if these two extensions would be delegated? We would then have two extensions describing the same product, two extensions with different right protection mechanisms and different registration policies. As the internet knows no boundaries, I’ll leave you to think about the potential consequences that this could have. Now this issue is not specific to vin and wine, as there are other “similar” applications.

Let’s hope that ICANN will take the necessary measures to avoid users’ confusion in the future. 

The views expressed in this post are those of Jean-François Vanden Eynde himself and do not necessarily reflect any position taken by his company.
Posted by: Jeremy Phillips @ 22.37
Tags: gTLDs, early warnings,
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