Government members of ICANN have filed a “consensus” objection to the branded .amazon generic top-level domain, potentially killing off the application.
The decision, made by the Governmental Advisory Committee (GAC) on Tuesday at ICANN’s Durban meeting, carries a “strong presumption” that the ICANN board approves it.
It comes after the GAC advised in April that the online retailer’s bid for .amazon should be further reviewed due to concerns from South American governments that share the Amazon region.
At the time, the US government’s reluctance to object to .amazon was thought to be one of the big hurdles preventing a consensus GAC objection. Since then, the US has said publicly it would remain neutral when the GAC made a final decision on .amazon at the Durban meeting.
The GAC’s decision from Durban, which has not been published, also applies to Amazon’s applications for .amazon in Chinese and Japanese scripts, known as internationalised domain names.
ICANN’s board can ignore the GAC’s advice, but ICANN must provide a “rationale” for doing so.
An Amazon spokesman said: “We’re reviewing the GAC advice and we look forward to working with ICANN and other stakeholders to resolve these issues as the process moves forward.”
In one reaction to the decision, chief executive of domain name consultants FairWinds Partners, Nao Matsukata, said it was disappointing and undermines “ICANN's efforts for a successful gTLD programme”.
The ruling is controversial because ICANN’s Applicant Guidebook provided a list of geographic names which, if sought by prospective applicants, required letters of non-objection from the relevant government or local authority. Amazon did not appear on the list.
“The GAC decision seems to be coming from the leftfield. Although the guidebook mentions ‘territories’, Amazon is not territory per se (and it's a translation of the actual word). As such, it’s difficult to see the grounds for the objection,” said Jean-Christophe Vignes, head of the domain name practice at law firm Caprioli & Associés.
Ben Crawford, chief executive of domain name registry CentralNic, added: “It’s rather unfair that applications can be rejected retrospectively ... Amazon has gone to all the effort and expense to file an application that follows the guidebook to the letter.”
“It seems like a dangerous precedent to change the rules retrospectively,” he added.
Asked about the reaction to the decision at the ICANN Durban meeting, Vignes said: “In the corridors you hear people from both the GAC and ICANN saying that they don’t support this decision.”
“It is not clear what ICANN wants to do at this stage: given the parties involved it’s very difficult to say at the moment. Tomorrow [end of the meeting] will be a very important day. What is clear is that lots of ICANN community members are saying that it would be a detrimental decision to let the objection stand against a trademark. I believe it’s not the end of the story.”
Jean-François Vanden Eynde, head of new gTLD center at Nameshield, said he believed that the ICANN board will probably have to follow the GAC’s consensus decision.
In that event, he said, Amazon could formally ask ICANN to reconsider the board’s decision, but “all that depends on how much they value .amazon”, because the need to hire lawyers could be expensive.
He added: “You never know what’s going to happen.”
This article was first published on 17 July 2013 in World IP Review
.amazon gTLD, ICANN, amazon, GAC, ICANN durban