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The .patagonia problem

Kevin Murphy, August 29, 2012, 08:01:59 (UTC), Domain Policy

Argentina has escalated its complaint with ICANN about the new gTLD application for .patagonia.

Ambassador Alfredo Morelli of the country’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has written to ICANN’s leadership to let them know that .patagonia “should not be used as a closed brand gTLD”.

An American clothing company that goes by the name of Patagonia Inc has applied for .patagonia, which it intends to use as a dot-brand, but Patagonia is also a region of South America.

Argentina’s Governmental Advisory Committee representative told ICANN’s board in Prague this June that the government would not stand for a geographic term for part of its country being used in this way.

But Argentina has a problem.

The new gTLD program rules, as spelled out in the Applicant Guidebook, give special protection to geographic strings, but only if they appear on certain lists.

Rather than create its own list of geographic strings, ICANN instead deferred to established international standards, such as ISO 3166.

Patagonia, as far as I can tell, does not appear on any of these lists. (The DI PRO database compares all applied-for strings against protected geographic names.)

While it’s undoubtedly the name of a region, covering parts of Argentina and Chile, it does not appear to be the name of the kind of administrative division covered by ISO 3166-2.

Judging by the Applicant Guidebook, ICANN’s Geographic Names Panel would therefore not designate .patagonia as geographic and the applicant would not have to secure government support for its bid.

It’s not clear from the Guidebook how much flexibility, if any, the panel will get to make subjective decisions with edge cases like this.

However, so much of the program that had been thought finalized is today apparently still open for negotiation that I wouldn’t be surprised if the rules are changed or reinterpreted.

While the .patagonia application has so far attracted almost 300 negative comments from internet users, it is not the only dot-brand to ruffle feathers in Argentina.

There has been a smaller outcry over the Commonwealth Bank of Australia’s application for .cba, which apparently matches the abbreviation of the Argentinian Province of Cordoba.

The string “CBA” does not appear to be protected by the Applicant Guidebook either, and I’ve not seen any official concerns raised by governments yet.

I think there’s a strong chance the .patagonia application is dead, even if it is not officially deemed geographic.

The GAC will almost certainly object, and even if the objection does not have consensus the ICANN board will have a big reason to reject the bid.

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Comments (3)

  1. Nic says:

    Very. Cleaver. Application.

    (And from an great company with excellent products, too.)

  2. Acro says:

    The .patagonia issue goes beyond silly ISO 3166 lists, that are mostly 2-character. It’s a national heritage area, much like Macedonia is to Greece. I’ve expanded on my vote against .patagonia at http://acro.net/blog/domains/why-i-oppose-the-patagonia-gtld-application/

  3. Tony says:

    Excellent opportunity for Patagonia, Inc. to demonstrate what a good corporate citizen they are. Reach out to our friends in Argentina and Chile and offer to carve out some space for them in .patagonia. Prominently feature a link to the patagonia region on their homepage. No, technically not a geographic name as defined in the AGB but that doesn’t preclude them from reaching out and finding a solution. They have after all benefitted from the borrowing of the name. Group hug.

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