The Grapevine

Protections Sought for Wine Industry TLDs (Top-Level Domains)

July 7th, 2014

In a recent article on Drinks Business Review’s website entitled, “Noted American Wine Regions join forces to protest ICANN’s release of .wine and .vin domain names,” we learn that roughly 2,000 wineries across the country have, through their regional wine associations, made their opposition known to ICANN’s plans to let the .wine and .vin TLDs (top-level domains) go to the highest bidder. ICANN is the internet’s governing body. [level-members]

The highest bidder process has been used in most of the recent TLD releases. The entity that controls the TLD decides who gets to use a domain ending in the TLD and at what price.

While this makes sense for TLDs such as .apple and other branded TLDs, the consortium of wineries contends that there are “grossly insufficient safeguards” against “illegitimate companies hijacking the history of fine winemaking in America …”

That seems a stretch to us. It’s doubtful that consumers will confuse a particular TLD with a stamp of approval or any measure of quality any more than does a .com or .guru (a recently launched TLD).

The argument would be stronger if the TLDs being sought by outsiders where for specific, well-known and well-regarded appellations. (.napa, for example.) .wine and .vin are just too generic to require protection.

Presumably, these domains would also be open to retailers and others who are in the wine biz or who have legitimate business connections with the wine industry and wish to make that connection as apparent as possible to their target audience. Though there might be an argument in favor of vetting those businesses (as the .gov registry does with that TLD), there’s no reason to restrict it further. [/level-members]