Warning: WalMart Is the Only Grocer in the World – Why Closed Generic gTLDs Spoil the Internet
While most of the world is sleeping, a few companies are engaged in a land grab the size of which has not been seen since the Colonial Powers divided the world. But rather than “plundering” countries, the powers in this “land grab” have different spoils in mind, namely generic-word gTLDs that they intend to run as “closed” for their benefit.
To be clear, I am a strong proponent of generic-word gTLDs, and of closed gTLD registries for Communities, or Trademark and Brand names. In fact some would say I’m a little too excited to see what BMW, Ford, Canon and others are going to do with their TLDs. However, certain combinations of generic-word gTLDs and closed or exclusive registries (in the absence of a community interest or a trademark right) are a recipe for disaster, and most people have no idea what’s cooking.
As you may know, the Governmental Advisory Committee (GAC) provided Advice on Closed Generics to ICANN. ICANNs recent posting of the responses of Applicants to the GAC Advice on Closed Generics provides clarity on what the Applicants are cooking up.
To illustrate the point on why the GAC needs to continue to evaluate and examine all applicants and why ICANN should slow down and take a critical look at where this process is headed see WalMart’s Response to ICANN:
In defense of its bid to run .GROCERY for its exclusive benefit WalMart posits that:
1) Generic domain names like “produce.grocery, deli.grocery, health grocery, and thanksgivingmeals.grocery . . . have no inherent value (emphasis added); rather, their value derives from an association in the minds of consumers between WalMart, ‘the world’s largest grocer,’ and the .GROCERY TLD.”
It’s hard to believe that Walmart believes its statement. Years of domain name investment and development of generic .COM domain names hold otherwise. A key generic term domain name like “produce.grocery” is a category “killer” domain name that any domain investor or “real grocer” would be thrilled to own because of its “inherent value.” Do you place value on “grocery” because of its alleged association with WalMart? Thanks to the American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition copyright ©2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company we know gro•cer•y (grō′sə-rē) is defined as: 1. A store selling foodstuffs and various household supplies; and 2. groceries Commodities sold by a grocer. I do not yet see “Walmart” under the definition of Grocery;
2) WalMart’s closed gTLD for .Grocery will, among other things “complement Walmart’s branding and brand protection strategies and lower Walmart’s overall costs by reducing the need for defensive registrations in other TLDs.”
If I’m reading this correctly, Walmart is claiming that forever controlling the word “Grocery” will benefit the public because it will “complement” its branding strategy and reduce defensive domain registrations;
3) In the antitrust context, Walmart states “[t]here are many other alternatives for potential registrants to the .Grocery TLD.” In essence, the argument is that the independent grocer, food distributor, entrepreneur, or food safety advocate has no need for a .grocery domain name because it can by a .com, .net, or a .food or .market domain name instead; and
4) Walmart’s operation of .Grocery as a closed registry is in the best interests of the public who use the global Internet.
Translation: the “global Internet” and worldwide public will benefit if Walmart is forever granted, in essence trademark rights, for the English dictionary word “Grocery.”
This comment is not meant to focus the spot light solely on Walmart, indeed it is no secret that we are assisting applicants in string contention with Amazon (for .MUSIC) and Google (for .TUBE) where the generic and/or exclusive gTLD debate is at issue. However, WalMart’s response to ICANN exemplifies why the Closed Generic debate should not be “closed” and the Internet name community should be engaged in the GAC debate to protect and preserve generic word gTLDs for the public interest. There are many “generic” words strings that are not trademarks and were not included on the, non-exclusive, GAC Category 2 list.
Unfortunately, after significant program delays there is an understandable desire to rush to market. The critical question to ask after reviewing the above cited response and others is whether the public interest is served when companies like WalMart, Google, Amazon, and Richemond seek to control dictionary word gTLDs (as a non-brand and non-community applicants).
Do you agree that .GROCERY has “no inherent” value apart from Walmart? I don’t, and I’m willing to bet neither does Walmart.
With the coming Application Change Requests and Requests for Exemptions from the Code of Conduct the need to pay close attention to what Applicants are saying is critical.
We can all do better. Our children will thank us.
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