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Belgium comes out against Donuts’ .spa bid

Kevin Murphy, April 15, 2014, 11:36:41 (UTC), Domain Policy

Belgium wants Donuts’ application for .spa rejected after the new gTLD applicant declined to sign a deal with the city of Spa.
In a March 20 letter to ICANN, published today, the Belgian deputy prime minister Johan Vande Lanotte said “negotiations between the stakeholders are closed”, adding that Belgium:

requests the Board of Directors of the ICANN to delegate the new “.spa” gTLD to the candidate who has a formal agreement with the local authorities of Spa and in respect of the public interest.

That’s the other applicant in the two-horse .spa race, Asia Spa and Wellness Promotion Council, which has promised to earmark up to 25% of its European profits to spa-related uses in the environs of Spa.
The letter was sent a week before the Governmental Advisory Committee issued its Singapore communique, which noncommittally noted that it “welcomes” the agreement between Spa and ASWPC.
ICANN may or may not be currently in receipt of firm, consensus GAC advice to accept or reject either of the remaining .spa applications.
In Beijing a year ago, the GAC put .spa on a list of gTLD strings where “further GAC consideration may be warranted” and asked ICANN to “not proceed beyond Initial Evaluation”.
At the Durban and Buenos Aires meetings last year the GAC said ICANN should not “proceed beyond initial evaluation until the agreements between the relevant parties are reached.”
Given that Donuts and Spa evidently cannot come to an agreement, ICANN presumably remains advised to keep one or both .spa applications on hold. The advice is pretty vague.
The string “spa” is not a geographic name within the rules of the new gTLD program. Donuts argues that it’s too generic nowadays to belong just to Spa.

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Comments (3)

  1. Donuts Inc. says:

    We come to a different conclusion.
    “Given that Donuts and Spa evidently cannot come to an agreement, ICANN presumably remains advised to keep one or both .spa applications on hold. The advice is pretty vague.”
    It doesn’t appear to us that’s the case.
    The contract or the guidebook says that ‐‐ quote, “to be considered by the board, the GAC advice on new TLDs must be submitted by the close of the objection filing period.” That period ended in March 2013.
    Board members are on record (specifically in Buenos Aires) to say unless the GAC offers consensus advice, it is proceeding with applications.
    Over the course of the past year, it’s clear there’s lack of clarity on this matter at the Board level about the GAC’s ultimate position on .SPA. As Stephen Crocker asked GAC Chair Heather Dryden in his February 2014 letter:
    The application was posted more than 18 months ago and received no early warnings or objections. As there is no provision in the Applicant Guidebook for an indefinite hold, the NGPC seeks an understanding as to the anticipated timeline leading to the issuance of final GAC advice on these applications.
    Further, ICANN already has determined that .SPA does not meet the criteria set forth for geographic names that require city endorsement. Section of the Guidebook covers any application “for a city name, where the applicant declares that it intends to use the gTLD for purposes associated with the city name.” Nobody is arguing that this is the case with .SPA, which clearly is targeted at generic use, in our case.
    So to your point that ICANN presumably remains advised not to proceed with applications for .SPA, the GAC Communique from Singapore reads otherwise:
    Regarding the applications for .spa, the GAC understands that the relevant parties in these discussions are the city of Spa and the applicants. The GAC has finalised its consideration of the .spa string and welcomes the report that an agreement has been reached between the city of Spa and one of the applicants.
    It may welcome the report, but it doesn’t endorse the applicant (nor does it have the power to do so) and further says it has finalised consideration regarding the string.
    The writing may be vague, but the history of this issue, the Board’s intention to move forward absent specific advice, and the conclusion of the GAC’s considerations regarding .SPA would rather indicate staff should proceed with implementation, the deputy prime minister’s letter notwithstanding.

    • Rubens Kuhl says:

      When Kevin blogged about possible implications of GAC in the IANA transition, I noticed that Board is making a distinction between consensus advice and non-consensus advice that only applied to AGB. GAC has since issued lots of advice that is not AGB-format advice, but Bylaws still allow them to… so although board is on record saying that there are two types, I don’t think anymore that is supported by the Bylaws. I hope someone proves me wrong…

    • Kevin Murphy says:

      The board has been advised, by GAC consensus in more than one communique, to not “proceed beyond initial evaluation until the agreements between the relevant parties are reached”.
      I haven’t seen any GAC advice to the contrary since. The Singapore communique does not seem to overturn it.
      Belgium could argue, as the European Commission has in the .wine debate, that the old advice remains active.
      The board could disagree, obviously, but that’s one possible read.

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