Geographical Name Branding: Dot Patagonia? Dot Amazon?
ADOTAS – When names are borrowed from the Atlas, things happen. Use of Geographic names have always caused some problems for two reasons; one they are in public domain so anyone can use and two they suggest that business is confined to just that geographic area. Like Paris Bakery, Waterloo Furniture or London Bank. Geographic naming was the biggest thing during last couple of centuries, as name of a village or a city as a moniker was considered being on top of the hill. The sudden worldwide expansion of markets due to ease of communications in the early Computer Society created a massive exit of businesses from geographical names.
Back in 1985, ABC Namebank conducted a major study of all the corporate names listed in Fortune 500, starting from the first ever list of 500 published in 1955 all the way up to 1985, and concluded by 30 year-by-year comparison that most corporations replaced geographic names with appropriately borderless names to reach international audience.
Amazon as a brand name for online book retailer is the largest and most successful. At this stage, it’s not important where and why that business name was chosen; originally from ancient Greece for big-breasted female warriors, or the Amazon River, the fact remains it’s now a geographical name in public domain. So who should get the ultimate super power gTLD dot.amazon the book store or the region of Amazon in Brazil? Names borrowed from Atlas often face sudden crossroads.
Patagonia the South America’s region will object to Patagonia sports apparel, as they have applied for dot Patagonia. Who win or lose is not the question, but rather, why?
ICANN on gTLD name evaluations has only two clear options: either follow the proven rules of trademark registrability or follow the first-come-serve “lawless” rule of early domain-name registrations.
To go granular on this early lawless domain name approval system lets’ clarify two things: If the “no questions” asked’ and “first-come. first-serve” original policy created massively rapid domain name expansion, did it not also create some 25 thousands of UDRPs conflict resolution proceedings (each costing many thousands of dollars) and also a multi-billion dollar defensive name registration industry? Who are the real beneficiaries of such lawless registrations? When a legit multi-billion dollar company buys a name for a business (say, ibm.com), the same system allows a kid to buy myibm.com, next in line. Is this a way to earn few dollars on a domain name sale or is it a plan to fuel massive global litigations and speculative markets on Intellectual Properties? Under this thinking trademark system would have collapsed a couple centuries ago.
“A complete breakdown of the domain name registration system, a type of anarchy on the Internet, as allowing anybody to register anything. Registrars throw up the towels. Trademark offices threaten to shut down. Intellectual property becomes public domain. The part-time guy at the local Pizza Hut answers the phone “Hello this is IBM — how can I help you” Battalions of lawyers will band around the word, declaring war on each other, and forcing conflicting points of views in endless battles will win trademarks. This war, would be a great windfall for the profession, as monthly billings would only become perpetual ones.” – Excerpted from “Domain Wars” by Naseem Javed, Linkbridge Publishing 1999.
Back to gTLDs, on an another example, if ICANN approves the name for the athletic brand Patagonia, already objected by the Region of Patagonia of South America, it will cause serious damage to the credibility of a gTLD ownership. Once it’s cracked there will be no end, as every tenth gTLD name poses special conflicting issues, and it will chip away gTLD quality. If on the other hand ICANN recognizes geographic gTLDs as rightly belonging to the locals and regions, it will send a shockwave to all the global name brands with words borrowed from the atlas.
The “name selection” and “name evaluation” both processes are under very serious scrutiny these days, behind each name megabucks are riding and so far it’s headed towards confusion. More information on such matters is on www.azna.com.
Of the 1,930 gTLDs in line up there are at least 10% very tough name approval decisions. If this alone does not place ICANN in the eye of a storm of naming complexity, then where else it’s headed? ICANN is now approaching a crossroads where the seriousness and fairness of the usage of names under trademark laws must be clearly declared, or it will crack the gTLD program, where litigious and hyper defensive-registration-mechanisms will suck out the energy. The Trademark clearing house without such clarity and direction is poised to become the Achilles Heels on the gTLD battlefield.
ICANN slowly approaches the crossroads and so are the brands withnames borrowed from the atlas. But still both sides need good maps.
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This whole domain thing is getting nuts. 1and1 is rolling out hundreds of new domains. I long for the old dot com days.
Greg Ellis | http://www.iwfa.com