GAC At War At ICANN 49 Over Wine

ICANN Governmental Advisory Committee logoThe Governmental Advisory Committee is at loggerheads at the ICANN meeting here in Singapore, seemingly unable to come to a consensus over the Communique it releases at the end of the meeting. Although, the GAC meeting has finished with some form of consensus reached, but not yet public.

The main issue appears to be over .wine/.vin, which ICANN has received legal advice to say they should let the application proceed. There are currently three applications for .wine, and one for .vin, with Donuts applying for both.

The dispute over the two gTLDs is over safeguarding the protection of geographical names such as “Champagne” and “Bordeaux”. And something European governments, and the French government and European Commission in particular, having expressed concerns over. The GAC has been unable to come to a decision on the issue at previous Berlin and then Durban meetings.

One exasperated GAC member left the closed GAC meeting here in Singapore, head in hands, exasperated saying they would give anything to swap places with anyone. Clearly the GAC is unable to come to a decision on at least one issue.

The most recent issue has arisen since a decision by the NGPC on 22 March, that was released on 26 March, and has now sent the GAC into overdrive. Governments including the US, Australia and New Zealand have supported allowing the applications to continue through the normal application process. And is consistent with legal advice that ICANN has received. The GAC is apparently disputing some aspects of the legal advice.

The advice [pdf] has been based on “whether, on strictly legal grounds in the field of international intellectual property law relating, in particular to the rules of international law or fundamental principles, ICANN would be bound to assign or not the gTLDs “in order to protect prior rights”

At issue is the whether “various geographical indications [or regions] around the world, particularly but not exclusively in Europe” may be used in domain names either as similar terms to existing protected regions and that the person registering a domain name in the disputed gTLDs may register domains the same as or close to a region’s name, or “geographical indication”, who may have no connection to the region and have no right to the domains.

The legal advice says that on these grounds ICANN is “obliged to assign the gTLDs”. The advice goes on to say “only a geographical name which constitutes a geographical indication within the meaning of intellectual property law could be protected. But this is not the case here.”

The advice concludes “there is no rule of law of geographical indications, nor any principle which obliges ICANN to reject the applications or accept the applications under certain specific conditions”.

It is curious though, if true, that the release of the approved NGPC resolutions from their 22 March meeting four days later should cause such an uproar when the GAC Chair, Heather Dryden is a non-voting member of the NGPC as well as an ICANN Board member.

Somehow the contentious decision on .wine/.vin apparently took four days to come to the notice of the GAC.