Dot-Amazon? Let’s think about that, an advisory panel says

April 12, 2013 04:31 PM

A governmental advisory panel is advising a go-slow approach on applications for several new top-level Internet domains with retail implications, including .amazon, .patagonia and .wine.

The Governmental Advisory Committee of the Internet Corporation of Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) released yesterday a document outlining its objections to these and some other applications for generic top-level domains and proposed regulations on the eventual use of others. Generic top-level domains, also known as gTLDs, are the terms after the final period in a web address.

ICANN coordinates the names and numbers that make up Internet addresses around the world, including the 22 current top-level domains, such as .com, .edu and .gov, and the 250 country-specific web address endings, such as .uk.  ICANN began accepting applications last year for new top-level domains and is now reviewing the first round of applications. Through the next several months they are open for public comments and objections, which an ICANN panel will consider in determining whether to grant the requests.

In addition to declaring objections to certain domain names altogether, including .africa and some religious terms the panel deems sensitive, such as .islam and .halal, the committee requests that ICANN hold any further proceedings after the initial evaluations for certain domains until it has more time to discuss them. Those domains are: .shenzhen (and the corresponding name in Chinese), .persiangulf, .guangzhou (also in Chinese), .amazon (also in Chinese and Japanese), .patagonia, .date, .spa, .yun, .thai, .zulu, .wine and .vin. 

The government panel did not explain its objections to these proposed domains and did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Inc., No. 1 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide, applied in June for the .Amazon domain and 75 others. Barnes & Noble objected to ICANN to Amazon’s application to several domains, including .book and .author, but not .amazon.

Amazon did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the panel’s opinion.

Patagonia Inc., a maker of outdoor gear and apparel, has applied for the .patagonia domain, but Argentina publicly objected last year. Patagonia is a region in southern Argentina and Chile. The retailer did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

There are three applicants for the .wine domain, according to wine industry web site

Additionally, the committee laid out in the document a set of six safeguards to uphold laws, human rights and non-discrimination principles to be applicable to all new top-level domains ICANN eventually approves.  They are a mix of security checks and verifications, complaints filing procedures and suggestions to set up consequences for domain owners that break the guidelines.

“It appears likely that new registry operators will be required to implement safeguards with heightened protections against online scams, intellectual property infringement and other improper uses of the new domain names,” says David Weslow, a partner at Washington D.C.-based Wiley Rein LLP who focuses on trademarks, copyrights and domain names. “If online businesses make use of the new domain names that will be subject to additional safeguards, the businesses will be subject to the new regulations.  However, it is likely that the additional safeguards will be directed to unlawful rather than legitimate online business practices.”

No regulations suggested by the committee will be adopted until the ICANN board meets and decides how to follow its directives, Weslow says. But, he says it appears that the owners of any new domains will be subject to stricter regulations than owners of existing domains.

“If these proposals were to be adopted by the ICANN board, they would have far-reaching and profound implications for gTLD applicants,” says Nao Matsukata, president and CEO of FairWinds Partners, a domain name strategy consulting firm. Most immediately, that impact would be a major delay in the new domain approval process, he says. That could create another hurdle for retailers, according to Weslow, because ICANN, already notorious for missing deadlines, may give them less advance notice if it plans to reject their applications, so they’ll have less time to build a legal argument against the decision.




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