Latest news of the domain name industry

Recent Posts

Back in evaluation! Tata dot-brand bid falls foul of Morocco

Kevin Murphy, February 5, 2015, Domain Registries

Tata Group, the Indian conglomerate, is to see its application for .tata head back into evaluation, after the Moroccan government denied it had given its approval for the bid.

ICANN told the company this week that .tata will have to be reviewed by the Geographic Names Panel for a third time.

Tata, as well as the name of the 150-year-old, $100 billion-a-year company, is also the name of a tiny Moroccan province (pop. 121,618) that is a protected geographic term under the new gTLD program’s rules.

Tata needed to get a letter of endorsement or non-objection from the relevant Moroccan authorities in order to pass the Geographic Names Panel review.

The company apparently had secured such a letter, when last July .tata became the final new gTLD application to pass through evaluation.

However, senior officials at Morocco’s industry of trade started kicking up a fuss last September, denying any such non-objection had been given.

In exchanges of letters with ICANN over the last few weeks, Morocco has elaborated. It now claims the letter provided by Tata to the panel referred to trademark protection of the Tata brand under Moroccan law and did not specifically not object to .tata.

The original letter (pdf) was sent by the Moroccan Office for Industry and Intellectual Property (OMPIC). It’s in French, so it’s hard for me to comment with much confidence either way even with a translation, but it seems to say that no Moroccan law would forbid the .tata application.

Now, OMPIC director Adil El Maliki has told ICANN (pdf) that there was no intention to confer non-objection. Another letter from the ministry of trade says the same.

ICANN has accepted the government’s explanation and has thrown .tata back at the evaluation process, where it is basically now at the mercy of the Moroccan government.

It’s not the first time there’s been some (charitably) confusion in government agencies about endorsements for new gTLD applications. DotConnectAfrica’s bid for .africa had backing from an African Union representative at first, which was subsequently withdrawn.

Other “geographic” gTLDs have found it’s easiest to throw money at the problem. Tata Group’s best hope for .tata now might be to build Tata province a new school.

“Frustrated” Morocco denies it supported .tata gTLD

Kevin Murphy, October 2, 2014, Domain Registries

The Moroccan government claims that it did not give its support to the .tata dot-brand gTLD, which was granted to Tata Group, the massive Indian conglomerate, in July.

According to Boubker Seddik Badr, director of digital economy at Morocco’s ministry of trade, .tata “did not receive any endorsement from any Moroccan authority”.

In a September 17 letter (pdf), he expressed his “surprise and very deep frustration” that .tata had been approved by ICANN regardless.

Under ICANN rules, .tata was classified as a “geographic” string because it matches the name of a Moroccan province found on an International Standards Organization list of protected names.

But Tata’s application was finally approved — it was the last bid to pass through evaluation — after a period Extended Evaluation. Its evaluation report (pdf) reads:

The Geographic Names Panel has determined that your application falls within the criteria for a geographic name contained in the Applicant Guidebook Section 2.2.1.4, and the documentation of support or non-objection provided has met all relevant criteria in Section 2.2.1.4.3 of the Applicant Guidebook.

The Guidebook states that letters of support or non-objection:

could be signed by the minister with the portfolio responsible for domain name administration, ICT, foreign affairs, or the Office of the Prime Minister or President of the relevant jurisdiction; or a senior representative of the agency or department responsible for domain name administration, ICT, foreign affairs, or the Office of the Prime Minister.

It’s not clear what documentation Tata provided in order to pass the geographic names review.

Tata Group is a family-owned, $103.27 billion-a-year conglomerate involved in everything from oil to tea to cars to IT consulting to airlines.

The company does not yet appear to have signed a Registry Agreement with ICANN for .tata.

ICANN is to hold its 52nd week-long public meeting in Marrakech, Morocco in February 2015.

Will India’s biggest dot-brand be blocked?

Kevin Murphy, June 1, 2012, Domain Policy

TATA Group, the $83-billion-a-year Indian conglomerate, has confirmed to local media that it has applied for the new dot-brand top-level domain .tata.

Reporting on the approximately 50 new gTLD applications known so far to originate in India, the Business Standard confirmed the .tata bid.

But the company may find itself on the receiving end of nasty surprise — Tata is a protected geographical string under ICANN’s new gTLD rules.

Tata is also a Moroccan province listed in the ISO 3166-2 standard and the string is therefore recognized as a “sub-national place name” that gets special privileges.

Such strings are “considered geographic names and must be accompanied by documentation of support or non-objection from the relevant governments or public authorities”, according to the ICANN Applicant Guidebook.

While it will be up to the Geographic Names Panel to make the call, “tata” looks to me like a pretty straightforward case of a protected string.

Has Tata obtained this consent from Morocco already? I guess we’ll find out on June 13, when ICANN reveals the public portions of all 1,900-plus new gTLD applications.

Tata also colloquially means “boob” in American.