Donuts has asked ICANN to approved its .spa new gTLD application over the objections of the Belgian government, saying the town of Spa no longer has exclusive rights to the string.
As we reported at the weekend, Spa is asking Donuts and rival applicant Asia Spa and Wellness Promotion Council for an up to 25% cut of profits from .spa, as well as the right to help manage the TLD at the registry’s expense.
ASWPC has agreed to these terms, but Donuts has not. It says it offered Spa extra protections for sensitive names, but does not want to hand over any managerial control or profit.
Yesterday, Donuts wrote to ICANN (pdf) to say that “spa” is now so generic that no interest would be served by ICANN enforcing the city’s demands. Here’s the meat of it:
While the City of Spa maintains a historical link to the word “spa”, that word long ago evolved as a globally recognized generic term by people who have never even heard of the city of its origin. The public interest served by making that term available to a global community of spa users far outweighs any risk of confusion with the city of the same name. And for those names that may cause confusion, Donuts has provided a rigorous series of additional protections and controls.
The City of Spa gave the word “spa” to the world many centuries ago, and the world has done a great deal with it. Just as attorneys for the City of Spa don’t fly around the world handing cease-and-desist notices to resort operators and hot-tub manufacturers, we do not believe it is appropriate for them to overrun ICANN procedure to try to exert control over how that term is used in the Internet’s global addressing system.
I’m going to raise my hand to say that I’d never heard of Spa before this particular controversy arose, and I expect that goes for most of the people reading this article. Donuts surely has a point.
But that’s not to say Spa doesn’t have a point too. There are plenty of governments that managed to squeeze concessions out of applicants for gTLDs matching place names in their territories, with little complaint from applicants; it’s just that the line was drawn at capital cities, something which Spa is not.
Donuts urges ICANN to give no weight to the Spa-ASWPC deal and to move both applications forward to the next stage of the process — contention resolution.
We may see some progress at the ICANN meeting in Singapore next week, when ICANN will surely press the Governmental Advisory Committee for further advice on this string.