ICANN delays uncorking of wine-related domains

It has put the allocation of .vin and .wine top level domain names on hold over cyber-squatting fears

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) decided on Monday to delay granting new .wine and .vin top level domains, a move welcomed by European lawmakers concerned that cybersquatting could undermine the entire wine industry.

ICANN, which is responsible for generic top level domains, had planned to launch .wine and .vin in the first quarter. However at a meeting on Friday evening in Singapore the organization decided to suspend allocation of the much sought-after domain names for two months.

The move comes following concerns raise by the European Commission and European Union member states. ICANN normally allocates new generic top level domain names (gTLDs) on a first come first served basis.

But the Commission feared that this could have negative economic and cultural repercussions on the wine industry, if, for example, a company with no connection to the Bordeaux region was first to register bordeaux.vin or bordeaux.wine.

Such so-called "geographical indications" must be protected from domain name claims that put at risk "the viability and integrity of this important sector," said the Commission in a statement.

At its Singapore meeting, ICANN did not find any process violation or procedural error under its bylaws, but opted to delay allocation for 60 days in order to "allow interested parties additional time to try to work out their differences," including the European Federation of Origin Wines and the European Commission.

The ICANN board also wants to clarify whether ICANN is the proper forum in which to resolve these issues, or whether there are others better suited to address similar concerns. This reflects ICANN's obligation to ensure that the global public interest is safeguarded as it rolls out hundreds of new gTLDs over the next year.

The Commission, meanwhile, wants to demonstrate that the multi-stakeholder approach to Internet governance can protect the common good and not simply favor purely commercial decisions or the highest bidders.

Follow Jennifer on Twitter at @BrusselsGeek or email tips and comments to jennifer_baker@idg.com.

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