Within a year, Internet users could be visiting sites with .wine and .vin addresses, as the world wide web expands. However, the International Organisation of Vine and Wine (OIV) claims the move could lead to many wine regions forfeiting valuable intellectual property.
Internet addresses most commonly end with .com, but the available choices have proliferated over the past decade, as developers have ushered in .biz, .info, .aero, .co and many others.
Since opening up its applications for new domain names in January 2012, the organization that manages the process, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), has received three proposals from private firms in the United States, Ireland and Gibraltar to manage the domain .wine. There is also one application from the United States to host the French equivalent, .vin.
Objections to the creation of these suffixes, and others such as .bank or .sport, closed on Sunday. The OIV posted its objections to the use of wine-related domain names on the ICANN site. It said: “These projects in their present form raise legitimate questions on whether a particular or a private firm will be able to bid for a generic Internet domain name such as “rioja.wine” or “bordeaux.vin.”
“This possibility could be potentially harmful for established Geographical Indications,” the organization claimed. Geographical Indications are place names used to identify products characteristic of certain area, such as Champagne, Roquefort, or Parma ham.
The companies hoping to win the .wine tender specify that they will “designate certain domains as ‘premium’ domains” and sell them via a bidding process. They do not specify what these premium wine domains are, which is causing the OIV concern.
There is a clause which states that trademark owners have the ability to petition to have names removed from the premium name list, but this power does not extend to designated wine regions such as appellations. “If objections by trademark owners are foreseen, no similar process of objection is mentioned for entities, which have intellectual property rights on geographical indications,” the OIV protested.
It is not just the wine industry which opposes this extension of domain names. The United States National Restaurant Association’s Scott De Fife claims it will cost businesses dearly, as they are forced to apply for new domains to protect their brands and trademarks.
“Some businesses have put the cost of registering a single top-level domain at $2 million or more over the initial 10-year contract, as companies submit applications, watch and defend their domains, monitor for infringement and litigate to block abuse," said De Fife. "Costs could run higher if businesses are forced to buy their own Internet names in auctions."
However, it is expected that a swathe of new names will become active in 2013 following approval by ICANN. The cost of a generic top-level domain name (gTLD) is $185,000 with an annual fee of $25,000.