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Aussie government slams .food closed generic bid

Kevin Murphy, October 30, 2015, Domain Policy

The Australian government is among those asking ICANN deny a request to make .food a “closed generic” gTLD.

Eight people have filed comments opposing Lifestyle Domain’s application for Specification 13 status for its .food registry contract, which would allow the company to keep all .food domains for itself, since we reported the news earlier this month.

The Aussies are arguably the highest-profile opponent, and the one most likely to be taken seriously by ICANN.

Governmental Advisory Committee rep Annaliese Williams wrote:

The Australian Government issued an Early Warning to Lifestyle Domain Holdings, Inc on the grounds that ‘food’ is a common generic term, and that restricting common generic strings, such as .food, for the exclusive use of a single entity could have a negative impact on competition…

The Australian Government does not consider that Lifestyle Domain Holdings’ application to operate .food for its exclusive use serves a public interest goal.

Lifestyle Domain is a subsidiary of Scripps Networks, the company that runs the Food Network TV stations and Food.com web site.

The company claims that it has trademark rights to the word “food” that should allow it to run .food as a dot-brand gTLD.

That would mean nobody but Scripps, which won the right to .food at auction, would be able to register .food domains.

ICANN has also received negative comments from employees of registrars (both retail and corporate) and registries.

One comment, taken at face value, appears to be pro-Scripps, but I’m fairly confident it’s actually just extreme sarcasm.

The decision about whether to allow Scripps to add Spec 13 to its contract will be made by ICANN legal staff.

ICANN told me this week that there’s no ETA on a decision yet.

.food applies for dot-brand status, but you can help stop it

Kevin Murphy, October 6, 2015, Domain Policy

Scripps Networks, the company that runs the Food Network television network, wants to make .food a dot-brand gTLD that only it can use.

The company has applied to ICANN to have Specification 13 exemptions incorporated into its Registry Agreement.

Spec 13 is an add-on to the RA that dot-brands use to exempt themselves from having to sell to the public via the registrar channel, offer sunrise periods, and so on.

Scripps subsidiary Lifestyle Domains won the .food contention set after an auction with Donuts and Dot Food LLC a couple months ago.

It’s one of the applications that was identified by the Governmental Advisory Committee as a “closed generic”. Such applications were subsequently banned by ICANN.

Scripps and dozens of other applicants were given the option to change their applications to remove the single-registrant policy, to withdraw, or to carry their applications over to the next round.

But Scripps is pressing ahead regardless, claiming that if anyone else is allowed to own .food domains, all kinds of horrible things will happen. It recently told ICANN:

Internet users will benefit more from Scripps operating .FOOD because it will provide more trusted experiences. Left open to the wild west of typosquatters and cybersquatters or fraudulent users, internet users will be harmed rather than helped. With a plethora of unregulated websites in a fully open registry, the public could be misled or confused as to the origin of the content and information and rely, to their detriment, on such content.

It more recently told ICANN that it has no intention of modifying its application to comply with the GAC advice. ICANN now considers the matter “resolved”.

What’s not resolved is whether .food qualifies for Spec 13 status.

To use Spec 13, the gTLD needs to match a trademark you own, but it cannot be also be a generic string, defined as:

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.

ICANN lawyers will make the ultimate decision about whether .food qualifies for Spec 13, but the request is open for public comment until October 29.

ICANN told DI: “ICANN has not yet made a determination as to if the application qualifies for Specification 13 and welcomes any comments from the community.”

What do you think? Should something as clearly generic as “food” be a space where only one company can register names?

Viking victor in .cruise gTLD auction

Kevin Murphy, October 2, 2015, Domain Registries

Viking River Cruises has emerged as the winner of the .cruise new gTLD contention set.

It seems to have beaten Cruise Lines International Association, which has withdrawn the only competing application, in an auction.

Both applicants originally proposed a single-registrant model, in which only the registry could own domains, but changed their plans after ICANN adopted Governmental Advisory Committee advice against so-called “closed generic” gTLDs.

There was controversy in July when CLIA claimed Viking had waited too long to change its proposed registration policies.

The group accused Viking of deliberately delaying the contention set.

ICANN, however, rejected its argument, saying applicants can submit change requests at any time.

Viking’s updated application seems to envisage something along the lines of .travel, where registration is limited to credentialed industry members, defined as:

Applicant and its Affiliates, agents, network providers and others involved in the delivery of cruise-related services, including without limitation: companies that hold a license from a governmental or regulatory body to offer cruise services, companies that provide services or equipment to cruise providers, as well as consultants, resellers, engineers, etc., working with the cruise industry.

Viking is already the registry for its dot-brand, .viking.

Another new gTLD goes to a closed generic applicant

Kevin Murphy, September 3, 2015, Domain Registries

Dish DBS has won the contention set for the .data gTLD, even though its proposed business model has been banned by ICANN.

Competing applicants Donuts and Minds + Machines have both withdrawn their competing applications.

It’s the second string this week to go to a “closed generic” applicant, that wants to keep all the domains in the TLD to itself even though it’s not a dot-brand.

Earlier this week, the company behind the Food Network TV show won .food.

Most companies that applied for closed generics changed their minds after the Governmental Advisory Committee issued advice against the model, but Dish was one of the ones that stuck to its original plans.

In June, ICANN ruled that .data, .food and a few others could either withdraw their bids, drop their exclusivity plans, or have their applications frozen until the next new gTLD round.

As withdrawal now seems to be off the cards, it seem that .data will not see the light of day for some time to come.

.food could be heading for limbo after closed generic applicant wins auction

Kevin Murphy, September 1, 2015, Domain Policy

The future of the .food gTLD is up in the air after single-registrant applicant Lifestyle Domain Holdings won its contention set.

The applicant, a subsidiary of Scripps Networks, is the sole remaining .food applicant after withdrawals from Donuts and Dot Food LLC.

It’s also a recalcitrant “closed generic” applicant, which continues to insist it has the right to exclude all third-party registrants from the .food namespace.

The company seems to have won .food at auction, even though ICANN recently slapped a ban on closed generics in the current application round.

Scripps will not be able to launch .food any time soon, unless it changes its planned registration policies.

The company may have essentially just paid to have .food placed on hold until the next new gTLD round.

Scripps runs a cable TV station in the US called Food Network, which it says is famous. It also runs Food.com, which it describes as “the third largest food site on the web”.

The current version of its application states:

Applicant intends to function in such a way that all domain name registrations in the TLD shall be registered to and maintained by Applicant and Applicant will not sell, distribute or transfer control of domain name registrations to any party that is not an Affiliate of Applicant

When ICANN asked applicants if they would like to revise their closed generic applications to allow third-party registrants, due to adverse Governmental Advisory Committee advice, Scripps was one of half a dozen applicants to decline.

Audaciously, the company told ICANN that an open registration policy for .food would hurt its brand:

To open the top level domain means that anyone could register a domain for a small annual amount of money and exploit, confuse and infringe upon the brand equity and goodwill of the famous FOOD, FOOD NETWORK and FOOD.COM brands established by Scripps with more than twenty years and hundreds of millions of dollars in investment.

Yes, Scripps thinks that when people think of “food”, they automatically think of the “third largest food web site” or a cable TV network that gets a 0.21% audience share in the UK.

A nonsense position, in other words.

So will Scripps get to run .food as a closed dot-brand? Probably not.

In June, ICANN ruled that the remaining closed generics applications (.food, .hotels, .grocery, .dvr, .data, and .phone) had the choice of either withdrawing, dropping their exclusivity plans, or carrying their applications over to the next gTLD application round.

Having just paid its competing applicants to go away, one assumes that Scripps’ withdrawal is off the cards.