Draft Names Council resolution on the reservation of geographical and geopolitical names

in a communiqué made by the Government Advisory Council (GAC) at its Montevideo meeting
"the GAC recommends that the names of countries and distinct economies, particularly those contained in the ISO 3166-1 standard, as applied by ICANN in identifying ccTLDs, should be reserved by the .info Registry, (or if registered in the Sunrise Period challenged by the Registry and, if successful, then reserved) in Latin characters in their official language(s) and in English and assigned to the corresponding governments and public authorities, at their request, for use. These names in other IDN character sets should be reserved in the same way as soon as they become available"

in the same communiqué the GAC further "draws the attention of ICANN and the Registries to the fact that a large number of other names, including administrative sub-divisions of countries and distinct economies as recognised in international fora, may give rise to contested registrations. Accordingly the GAC recommends that Registrars and eventual Registrants should be made aware of this".

the ICANN Board in reaction to this communiqué has initiated an action plan
and that following a request from ICANN, Afilias, the dot info registry, has in September 2001 reserved around 130 ISO 3166-1 standard names and their equivalents in official languages.

in this action plan the Board will establish a discussion group comprising Board and GAC members on the ISO 3166-1 names and has called upon the DNSO to consider the longer-term issue of other geographical identifiers,

the recent report from WIPO The Recognition of Rights and the Use of Names in the Internet Domain Name System
(WIPO-2) concludes:
"For geographical identifiers, … it is recognized that certain norms exist at the international level which prohibit false and deceptive indications of geographical source on goods and which protect geographical indications, or the names of geographical localities with which goods having particular characteristics derived from that locality are associated. However, these rules apply to trade in goods and may require some adaptation to deal with the perceived range of problems with the misuse of geographical indications in the DNS. Furthermore, the lack of an international agreed list of geographical indications would pose significant problems for the application of the UDRP in this area because of the need to make difficult choices of applicable law. It is suggested that the international framework in this area needs to be further advanced before an adequate solution is available to the misuse of geographical indications in the DNS. As far as other geographical terms are concerned, the Report produces considerable evidence of the widespread registration of the names of countries, places within countries and indigenous peoples as domain names by persons unassociated with the countries, places or peoples. However, these areas are not covered by existing international laws and a decision needs to be taken as to whether such laws ought to be developed".

the WIPO report shows that seeking to extend coverage to anything narrower that the ISO 3166 country list is fraught with problems some of which have occupied the WTO and other fora for years due to conflicts arising:

the further work recommended in the WIPO-2 report has already been scheduled in two upcoming sessions of the WIPO Standing Committee on the Law of Trademarks, Industrial Designs and Geographical Indications, with the deadline of reporting to the WIPO General Assembly for consideration before September, 2002.

the recent expansion of top-level domain names by ICANN has been a limited rather cautious test and included the names dot biz, dot name and dot info as well as chartered domain names, and that the implication of this expansion is that there are more to come in the near future.

the dot info registry has adopted the UDRP to enable the return of names acquired in bad faith.

the ICANN Board has approved initiatives relating to Multilingual Domain Names and these initiatives have yet to complete their work,

The Names Council advises:

1. That while it understands the concerns of the GAC, caution should be exercised to avoid a short-term reaction to a problem that is not inherent to dot info.

2. That there is not a full understanding of the implications for suppliers and users of the retrospective action of the kind GAC seeks.

3. That, due to the inherent complexity, the best forum for governments to seek solutions to the problems perceived by the GAC is the existing forum of such intellectual property expertise, namely the inter-governmental specialised UN agency, the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) combined with the existing forum for representing the internet community in policy making, the DNSO and other relevant stakeholders.

4. That any technical reasons for the reservation of the two-letter country codes in ISO 3166 - 1 do not extend to country names.

The Names Council therefore calls upon the ICANN Board:
a) to recommend to the GAC that it reconsiders its recommendation in this matter in the light of the work already in progress at WIPO following the recent WIPO report The Recognition of Rights and the Use of Names in the Internet Domain Name System,
b) to encourage the GAC and all interested parts of the ICANN structure to contribute to WIPO’s work in this respect.
c) to invite the Names Council to participate in the discussion group on ISO 3166-1 names.

Information from:
© DNSO Names Council