The new gTLD .food went live in the DNS on Friday, but nobody except the registry will be able to register domains there.
In what I would argue is one of the new gTLD program’s biggest failures, .food will be a dot-brand, closed to all except the “brand” owner.
The registry is Lifestyle Domain Holdings, a subsidiary of US media company Scripps Networks.
Scripps runs the Food Network TV station in the States and the site Food.com. It has a trademark on the word “Food”.
Its registry agreement for .food, signed back in April, includes Specification 13, which allows registries to restrict all the second-level domains to themselves and their affiliates.
So food producers, restaurants, chefs and the like will never be able to use .food for their web sites.
ICANN signed the contract with Scripps despite objections from several entities including the Australian government, which warned “restricting common generic strings, such as .food, for the exclusive use of a single entity could have a negative impact on competition”.
Under ICANN rules hastily cobbled together after outrage over so-called “closed generics”, a registry cannot run as a dot-brand a gTLD that is:
a string consisting of a word or term that denominates or describes a general class of goods, services, groups, organizations or things, as opposed to distinguishing a specific brand of goods, services, groups, organizations or things from those of others.
Almost all applications flagged as closed generics were subsequently amended to make them restricted but not brand-exclusive. Scripps was the major hold-out.
The loophole that allowed .food to stay in exclusive hands appears to be that Scripps’ trademark on “Food” covers television, rather than food.
If .food winds up publishing content about food, such as recipes and healthy eating advice, I’d argue that it would go against the spirit of the rules on closed generics.
It would be a bit like Apple getting .apple as a Spec 13 dot-brand and then using the gTLD to publish content about the fruit rather than computers.
No sites are currently live in .food.