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Bling-maker kills off fifth dot-brand gTLD

Kevin Murphy, April 16, 2018, Domain Registries

Richemont, the company behind brands such as Cartier jewelry and Mont Blanc pens, has terminated its fifth dot-brand gTLD.

It filed with ICANN to terminate its registry contract for .iwc earlier this month.

IWC is a Swiss brand of expensive watches, but its dot-brand has never been used to any notable extent.

The company had registered the domain watches.iwc, which it apparently planned to use for URL redirection via Rebrandly.

It’s the third gTLD Richemont has voluntarily terminated, after .montblanc and .chloe last year.

The company also withdrew its unopposed applications for .netaporter and .mrporter back in 2014, before it actually signed contracts with ICANN.

Richemont was one of the more prolific dot-brand applicants, applying for 14 gTLDs in total back in 2012.

It also applied for (defensively?) and won the generic .watches and some translations.

While the .watches gTLD has been live in the DNS for two and a half years, Richemont has not yet set a launch date and has not yet said who will even be eligible to buy domains there.

Richemont kills off two more dot-brands

Luxury goods maker Richemont has decided to ditch two more of its dot-brand gTLDs.

The company has asked ICANN to terminate its registry contracts for .chloe and .montblanc, according to documents published by ICANN late last week.

Chloe is a fashion brand; Mont Blanc sells pens, jewelery and such.

No reason was given for either termination. Registries are allowed to self-terminate their Registry Agreements for any reason, given 180 days notice.

In both cases, ICANN has already agreed not to transfer the gTLD to a new operator. That’s a special privilege dot-brands get in their RAs.

Neither gTLD ever progressed beyond a single nic.brand placeholder page

Four additional Richemont dot-brands — .piaget, .iwc, .cartier, .panerai — have also been live for two years or more but are in identical states of disuse.

Richemont also runs .watches, .手表 and .珠宝 (Chinese for “watches” and “jewelry” respectively) which have been in the DNS for over 18 months but do not yet have any published launch plans.

The company was a somewhat enthusiastic early adopter of the new gTLD concept, providing speakers to industry events well before the application window opened back in 2012.

It applied for 14 strings in total, 10 of which eventually went live. It dumped two of its dot-brands before contract-signing and lost two auctions for generic strings.

Both .chloe and .montblanc are expected to be removed from the DNS in October.

There are now 22 new gTLDs that have voluntarily terminated their RAs.

Generics versus brands as two more gTLDs are sold

Kevin Murphy, February 17, 2015, Domain Registries

Two more new gTLD contention sets have been settled by auction, one a case of a portfolio applicant prevailing over a closed generic applicant, the other a case of a brand owner paying off a portfolio applicant.

Donuts has won the right to .jewelry over $10 billion-a-year jewelry firm Richemont, owner of brands including Cartier.

Richemont applied for several TLDs, some of which were generic terms. It was awarded .watches uncontested, but apparently didn’t want to fork out as much as Donuts for the matching .jewelry.

Google, meanwhile, won the two-horse race for .moto against Rightside. This one’s interesting because it’s basically a case of Rightside forcing Google to pay up to own one of its own brands.

Google owns a trademark on “Moto” due to its acquisition of Motorola Mobility a few years ago, but Rightside applied for it in its generic sense as an abbreviation of “motorcycle” or “motorbike”.

Google had filed a legal rights objection against its rival for .moto, but lost. Now it’s been forced to cough up at auction instead.

Prices, as usual, have not been disclosed.

Richemont pulls two dot-brand bids

Kevin Murphy, December 2, 2014, Domain Registries

Luxury goods company Richemont has withdrawn two of its original 14 new gTLD applications.

The company, which has been a vocal supporter of dot-brand gTLDs, pulled its bids for .netaporter and .mrporter this week.

Mr Porter and Net A Porter are fashion retail web sites for men and women respectively.

It’s not clear why these two bids have been withdrawn — the company isn’t commenting — but it’s certainly not a signal that Richemont is abandoning the new gTLD program completely.

The company has already entered into ICANN contracts for six dot-brands including .cartier, .montblanc and .chloe.

It has another five applications — four generics and one brand — that are still active: .手表 (“.watches”), .珠宝 (.jewelry), .watches, .jewelry and .jlc.

It has previously withdrawn an application for .love.

Cartier sues Nominet hoping to set global domain name take-down precedent

Kevin Murphy, January 22, 2014, Domain Policy

Luxury watchmaker Cartier has taken .uk registry Nominet to court, hoping to set a precedent that would enable big brands to have domain names taken down at a whim.

The company sued Nominet in a London court in October, seeking an injunction to force the registry to take down 12 domain names that at the time led to sites allegedly selling counterfeit watches.

We’ve only become aware of the case today after Nominet revealed it has filed its defense documents.

Judging by documents attached to Nominet’s court filings, Cartier sees the suit as a test case that could allow it to bring similar suits against other “less cooperative” registries elsewhere in the world.

In a letter submitted as evidence as part of Nominet’s defense, Richard Graham, head of digital IP at Cartier parent company Richemont International, said that he was:

seeking to develop a range of tools that can be deployed quickly and efficiently to prevent Internet users accessing websites that offer counterfeit goods… [and] looking to establish a precedent that can be used to persuade courts in other jurisdictions where the registries are less cooperative.

It’s worth noting that Richemont has applied for 13 dot-brands under ICANN’s new gTLD program and that Graham is often the face of the applications at conferences and such.

Pretty soon Richemont will also be a domain name registry. We seem to be looking at two prongs of its brand protection strategy here.

According to the company’s suit, the 12 domains in question all had bogus Whois information and were all being used to sell bogus Cartier goods.

None of them used a Cartier trademark in the domain — this is explicitly about the contents of web sites, not their domains names — and Cartier says most appeared to be registered to people in China.

Rather than submitting a Whois inaccuracy complaint with Nominet — which could have led to the domains being suspended for a breach of the terms of service — Cartier decided to sue instead.

Graham actually gave Nominet’s lawyers over a week’s notice that the lawsuit was incoming, writing his letter (pdf) on October 22 and filing the complaint (pdf) with the courts November 4.

Cartier seems to have grown frustrated playing whack-a-mole with bootleggers who cannot be traced and just pop up somewhere else whenever their latest web host is persuaded to cut them off.

Graham’s letter, which comes across almost apologetic in its cordiality when compared to the usual legal threat, reads:

Cartier therefore believes the most cost effective and efficient way to disrupt access to the Counterfeiting Websites operating in the UK is to seek relief from you, as the body operating the registry of .uk domain names.

Armed with the foreknowledge provided by the letter, Nominet reviewed the Whois records of the domains in question, found them lacking, and suspended the lot.

Ten were suspended before Cartier sued, according to Nominet. Another expired before the suit was filed and was re-registered by a third party. A fourth, allegedly registered to a German whose scanned identity card was submitted as evidence by Nominet, was suspended earlier this month.

As such, much of Nominet’s defense (pdf) relies upon what seems to be a new and obscure legal guideline, the “Practice Direction on Pre-Action Conduct”, that encourages people to settle their differences without resorting to the courts.

Nominet’s basically saying that there was no need for Cartier to sue, because it already has procedures in place to deal with counterfeiters using fake Whois data.

Also offered in the defense are the facts that suspending a domain does not remove a web site, that Nominet does not operate web sites, and the following:

Nominet is not at liberty under its Terms and Conditions of Domain Name Registration to suspend .uk domain names summarily upon mere receipt of a demand from someone unconnected with the domain name registrant.

That seems to me to be among the most important parts of the defense.

If Cartier were to win this case, it may well set a precedent giving registries (in the UK at least, at first) good reason to cower when they receive dodgy take-down orders from multibillion-dollar brands.

Indeed, that seems to be what Cartier is going for here.

Unfortunately, Nominet has a track record of at least accelerating the takedown of domains based on nothing more than third-party “suspicion”. Its defense actually admits this fact, stating:

Inaccurate identity and contact information generally leads to the suspension of a domain within three weeks. Where suspicions of criminality are formally confirmed by a recognised law enforcement agency, suspension may be very significantly expedited.

I wonder if this lawsuit would have happened had Nominet not been so accommodating to unilateral third-party take-down notices in the past.

In a statement to members today, a copy of which was sent to DI, Nominet encouraged internet users to report counterfeiting web sites to the police if and when they find them.

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