The French government is resisting plans to offer .vin and .wine domains to any businesses that wants one, claiming that doing so will undermine the country's wine industry.
The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (Icann) has opened up a huge array of new domains designed to let firms add a more bespoke web address to their business, such as .London or .book.
However, this has angered the French, with deputy minister for digital affairs, Axelle Lemaire, telling the Financial Times that Icann has been vague about how this system will work in practice. “The problem is it is totally opaque, there is no transparency at all in the process,” she told the paper.
The fear for the French is that brands such as Champagne, which cannot be used by any other firms other than those in the Champagne region, could be undermined by firms buying domains for URLs that would confuse consumers, such as Champagne.wine.
Currently the use of the term 'Chapagne', and names for other area-specific wines, are limited under international trade agreements that protect geographical indications (GIs) of products and their associated brands.
The French fear these agreements will be undermined if Icann does not do more to put safeguards in place over who can receive the new domains.
The comments come amid the latest Icann summit, taking place in London this week. The French will put more pressure on Icann to give internet stakeholders a greater say in how these new domains can be handed out.
V3 contacted Icann for a response to the concerns raised by the French, but had received no reply at the time of publication.
This is not the first time the wine trade has chided Icann over its plans, with the Napa Valley Vintners group, which represents wine producers in California, previously writing to Icann asking for greater control of .vin and .wine domains.
"We note that, to date, none of the .wine and .vin applicants has unequivocally included in its application appropriate safeguards for the protection of GIs or wine-growing place names," wrote Napa Valley Vintners CEO Linda Reiff in April.
"The importance of protecting wine-growing place names is critical to all wine-growing regions of quality; it is not solely a European issue. Internet users could indeed be deceived into believing that they are buying a genuine product with specific qualities and characteristics, when they are in fact getting an imitation," she added.
The debate comes as the US agrees to relinquish control of Icann, acknowledging that it should be run by a consortium of nations, rather than just itself.
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