Twenty-eight intergovernmental organizations, including the UN, ITU and WIPO, have asked ICANN for special protection for their acronyms in the new top-level domains program.
A letter sent to ICANN earlier this week and obtained by DI, reads:
we formally request ICANN to make provision for a targeted exclusion of third party registrations of the names and acronyms of IGOs both at the top and second level, at least during ICANN’s first application round and until further appropriate policy could be developed.
It goes on to claim that fighting abusive domain registrations and enforcing rights diverts funds from causes such as famine relief, scientific research and children’s rights.
For the sake of brevity, this is the list of the letter’s signatories in acronym form only: AfDB, EBRD, ESO, CERN, ESA, IADB, IAEA, IFAD, ILO, IMO, IMF, IOM, ITU, NIB, NATO, OECD, OPCW, UN, UNESCO, UNIDO, UPU, WB, WHO, WIPO, WMO, UNWTO, and WTO.
The letter justifies its request by citing the rights given to IGO names under the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property.
It’s a pretty flimsy argument. The Paris convention does not give IGOs exclusive rights to strings. It may protect the World Bank abbreviation WB, for example, but not to the extent that Warner Brothers can’t also use it to market movies.
The letter also cites ICANN’s Governmental Advisory Committee, which called for IGOs to be protected in its March 2007 GAC Principles regarding New gTLDs advice.
The Principles, however, talk about IGOs in the same breath as regular trademark owners, which is exactly how the new gTLD Applicant Guidebook treats them today.
There is some ICANN precedent for giving in to this kind of special pleading, however.
The latest Guidebook makes several dozen trademarks relating to the Red Cross, Red Crescent and Olympic movements “ineligible for delegation” as gTLDs, but offers them no second-level protection.
It was noted at the time the decision was made – at the behest of the GAC – that giving the Olympics special treatment would create a slippery slope to a full-blown Globally Protected Marks List, a concept ICANN has already rejected.
The UN et al only really have a shot at getting what they want if they can get the GAC on side, and several influential GAC members have already stated that the Olympic/Red Cross case was unique.
I think the response from ICANN will be a letter from president Rod Beckstrom politely declining the request and inviting its signatories to participate in the ICANN community.