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Back in evaluation! Tata dot-brand bid falls foul of Morocco

Kevin Murphy, February 5, 2015, 08:47:57 (UTC), Domain Registries

Tata Group, the Indian conglomerate, is to see its application for .tata head back into evaluation, after the Moroccan government denied it had given its approval for the bid.

ICANN told the company this week that .tata will have to be reviewed by the Geographic Names Panel for a third time.

Tata, as well as the name of the 150-year-old, $100 billion-a-year company, is also the name of a tiny Moroccan province (pop. 121,618) that is a protected geographic term under the new gTLD program’s rules.

Tata needed to get a letter of endorsement or non-objection from the relevant Moroccan authorities in order to pass the Geographic Names Panel review.

The company apparently had secured such a letter, when last July .tata became the final new gTLD application to pass through evaluation.

However, senior officials at Morocco’s industry of trade started kicking up a fuss last September, denying any such non-objection had been given.

In exchanges of letters with ICANN over the last few weeks, Morocco has elaborated. It now claims the letter provided by Tata to the panel referred to trademark protection of the Tata brand under Moroccan law and did not specifically not object to .tata.

The original letter (pdf) was sent by the Moroccan Office for Industry and Intellectual Property (OMPIC). It’s in French, so it’s hard for me to comment with much confidence either way even with a translation, but it seems to say that no Moroccan law would forbid the .tata application.

Now, OMPIC director Adil El Maliki has told ICANN (pdf) that there was no intention to confer non-objection. Another letter from the ministry of trade says the same.

ICANN has accepted the government’s explanation and has thrown .tata back at the evaluation process, where it is basically now at the mercy of the Moroccan government.

It’s not the first time there’s been some (charitably) confusion in government agencies about endorsements for new gTLD applications. DotConnectAfrica’s bid for .africa had backing from an African Union representative at first, which was subsequently withdrawn.

Other “geographic” gTLDs have found it’s easiest to throw money at the problem. Tata Group’s best hope for .tata now might be to build Tata province a new school.

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Comments (1)

  1. Rubens Kuhl says:

    The initial panel decision has to be one of the worst in new gTLDs evaluation ever. Let’s say I ask USPTO (US Trademark and Patent Office) if I could register a “California” trademark for domain services (there is one such mark for Avocados, BTW), and USPTO says “yes you can apply to such a trademark”. I then use this response to apply for a .california gTLD, and the panel accepts it.
    Where the people of California could, via its elected officials, approved this ?

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