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Donuts makes private deal with wine-makers

Donuts inked a private side-deal with wine-making regions in order to launch the .wine and .vin new gTLDs

The company signed both Registry Agreements with ICANN late last week, after the wine regions and the European Union stopped complaining.

The EU and regions had filed Cooperative Engagement Process objections with ICANN, saying that Donuts should be forced to protect “geographic indicators” such as Napa Valley and Champagne.

CEPs are often precursors to Independent Review Process complaints, but both were dropped after Donuts came to a private deal.

“The CEP filed by the Wine Regions was withdrawn because we came to a satisfactory private arrangement with the Registry concerned, Donuts,” David Taylor of Hogan Lovells, who represented the wine-making regions, told DI.

Details of the deal have not been disclosed, but Donuts does not appear to have committed to anything that could create compliance problems with ICANN in future.

“It has been a successful negotiation between private parties that avoids policy precedents,” Taylor said. “There are no special changes to these registry agreements (e.g., no new PICs)”

PICs are Public Interest Commitments, enforceable addenda to Registry Agreements that oblige the registry to adhere to extra rules.

So are GIs protected in .wine or not? For now, Taylor won’t say.

“My view is that this is not a victory for either side of the GI debate,” he said. “This is a victory for the wine community (consumers and producers) and ultimately the new gTLD program.”

.wine no longer blocked after EU drops complaint

Kevin Murphy, June 11, 2015, Domain Policy

Donuts and ICANN are currently in the process of signing new gTLD agreements for .wine and .vin, after the European Union and wine sellers dropped objections.

As of today, both gTLDs are “In Contracting” rather than “On Hold”, according to ICANN’s web site.

ICANN revealed earlier this week that the European Union and various wine trade associations have both dropped their Cooperative Engagement Process complaints.

CEP is less formal precursor to a much more expensive and lawyer-hungry Independent Review Process complaint.

With the CEPs out of the way, Donuts is now free to sign its contracts.

Donuts won the auction for .wine back in November, but its application was frozen due to ongoing arguments about the protection of “geographic indicators” representing wine-making regions.

Governments, particularly in Europe and Latin America, had protested that .wine and .vin should not be allowed to launch until areas such as Rioja and Champagne were given special privileges.

Last October, ICANN CEO Fadi Chehade told the French government that it was negotiating with applicants to get these protections included in the contracts.

Either Donuts has agreed to such protections, or the EU and wine-makers have gotten bored of complaining.

My feeling is the former is probably more likely, which may be controversial in itself.

There is no international agreement on GI protection — the US and Australia opposed the EU’s position on .wine — so this may be seen as a case of ICANN creating new rights where none previously existed.

Donuts wins .wine auction

Kevin Murphy, November 4, 2014, Domain Registries

Donuts has become the only applicant for .wine and .vin after winning a private auction for .wine, according to sources familiar with the situation.

I gather that the auction, which saw Donuts knock out rival applicants Afilias and Famous Four, happened a couple of weeks ago. I don’t know what the winning bid was.

Neither losing application has yet been withdrawn, presumably because the whole contention set has been placed “On Hold” by ICANN pending talks about the protection of wine-making region names.

As we reported yesterday, ICANN seems to be currently acting as a middleman between Donuts, European governments and wine-makers that want so-called “geographic indicators” specially protected.

A letter (pdf) from ICANN CEO Fadi Chehade to the French government indicated that ICANN expects to make GIs protected, contractually, with the successful .wine and .vin applicants (now, it seems, Donuts).

Domains such as larioja.wine and bordeaux.vin seem set to enjoy some form of protection, reserved for use by eligible parties only, if these talks pan out the way Chehade expects them to.

Donuts was the only applicant for .vin.

.wine applicants changing tune on geo protection?

Kevin Murphy, November 3, 2014, Domain Registries

Aggressive lobbying of ICANN by the wine-making industries on both sides of the Atlantic may be about to bear fruit.

Applicants for .wine and .vin are talking to the organization about providing special protection for a list of “geographic indicator” terms, according to CEO Fadi Chehade.

In a letter to French secretary of state for digital Axelle Lemaire published last week, Chehade said:

The parties involved are now working on devising a mechanism which would offer protections to a reserved list of names, which would be contractually protected through ICANN’s registry agreement, along with a set of rules around how those names could be distributed to parties that have interests in and the rights to them. Once they are finalized, ICANN would be charged with monitoring and ensuring compliance with these commitments.

While the details have not yet been revealed, this appears to be what wine makers have been looking for.

GIs are terms such as “Napa Valley” and “Champagne”. While they are protected under various national and international laws, they don’t enjoy the same degree of global recognition as trademarks.

They do not qualify for inclusion in the Trademark Clearinghouse, so would not automatically be protected when .wine and .vin launch.

ICANN’s Governmental Advisory Committee was unable to reach consensus on what should be done about GIs. European countries wanted protections, but the US, Canada and Australia were against the idea.

Wine makers presented a pretty unified front, however, even when they did not benefit from the support of their own governments.

Industry groups and the European Commission had separately started Cooperative Engagement Processes with ICANN — a prelude to filing Independent Review Process complaints.

These CEPs are evidently what kick-started the current negotiations.

There are three applicants for .wine — Donuts, Famous Four and Afilias. Only Donuts has applied for .vin.

Donuts declined to comment on the talks referred to in the Chehade letter.

US winemakers rebel against their government

Kevin Murphy, July 3, 2014, Domain Policy

Groups representing thousands of US winemakers have come out against .wine and .vin, bringing their government’s position on the two proposed new gTLDs into question.

Seven regional associations, representing close to 2,000 wineries, issued a statement last night raising “strong objections” to the gTLDs with “non-existent to grossly insufficient safeguards”.

The joint statement says:

If granted to unscrupulous bidders, second-level domain names such as napavalley.wine or wallawalla.wine could be held in perpetuity by a company or individual that has never seen a vineyard, cultivated fine wine grapes or made a single bottle of wine.

It’s the first mass objection from US winemakers, but they join colleagues from France, Spain and other European Union nations in their opposition to a .wine that does not respect geographic indicators (GIs).

It also makes the US delegation to ICANN’s Governmental Advisory Committee look rather out of touch with the very companies it professes to be looking out for.

At the ICANN 50 meeting in London last week, US rep Suzanne Radell told the GAC:

The three U.S. wineries that our colleagues in Europe have cited as being privy to the exchanges between the European wine industries and the applicants are, in fact, just three U.S. wineries. If I may emphasize, the United States has thousands and thousands of wineries who are quite interested in this matter and do not support the European model of GI protection. So let’s just please put that to bed.

The US winery groups now objecting comprise almost 2,000 wineries. According to Wikipedia, the US has fewer than 3,000 wineries.

We’re looking at a two-thirds majority objection from the US wine-making industry here.

“The coalition of American quality wine regions representing nearly 2,000 U.S. wineries clearly contradicts Radell’s testimony in London on June 22,” the groups said.

The groups also have Californian congresspeople Anna Eshoo and Mike Thompson on their side. As we reported yesterday, Eshoo has already written to ICANN to urge it to kill off .wine.

The big questions are: will this be enough to change the position the US takes to the GAC in future, and will that help the GAC find consensus on anti-.wine advice?

Australia and Canada have also been vocal opponents of the European demands in the past. They’d need to change their minds too, in order for the GAC to find a new consensus.

Without a GAC consensus, the .wine and .vin applicants have little to worry about.