Amazon Gets Fresh Shot at .Amazon Internet Domain

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By Alexis Kramer

An arbitration panel has given Amazon.com Inc. another chance to secure the .amazon internet domain it has been fighting for since 2014.

The independent review panel ordered the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers board to “promptly re-evaluate” Amazon.com’s domain application in a July 10 declaration published late July 17 on ICANN’s website. ICANN, a nonprofit entity, manages the domain name system.

The e-commerce giant has been fighting for the .amazon domain since its application was first denied in May 2014 based on consensus advice from government advisors. Representatives from Brazil and Peru, leading opponents of Amazon’s application, argued that the name has strong geographic ties to the Amazon ecological habitat.

The panel said the board failed to independently determine that there were public policy reasons for denying the application. If the board determines that the application shouldn’t proceed, it should explain its rationale, the panel said.

The declaration “clearly and inherently recognizes that it’s the board who is responsible,” Flip Petillion, a partner at Crowell & Moring LLP in Brussels who co-chairs the firm’s top-level domain and domain name practice, told Bloomberg BNA July 18. When the board evaluates a domain application, it must make a determination on the merits, he said.

ICANN’s ongoing expansion of top-level domains, or domain names to the right of the dot such as .com, has allowed businesses to apply to operate domain spaces that are unique to their brand. Driving web searches to TLDs such as .amazon or .google could have significant economic implications for online businesses and advertisers.

Amazon spokeswoman Jill Kerr said in an emailed statement that the company looks forward to the board reevaluating its application so that it can “develop new experiences and innovations on behalf of” its customers. An ICANN spokesman declined a Bloomberg BNA request for comment.

GAC Advice

The declaration calls into question the level of deference that the board must give to advice from its Governmental Advisory Committee (GAC). ICANN’s domain applicant guidebook provides that GAC advice against an application creates a strong presumption that the board should reject that application.

The panel said that the board, acting through ICANN’s New gTLD Program Committee (NGPC), acted inconsistently with the nonprofit’s bylaws because by giving “complete deference” to the GAC advice, it didn’t independently evaluate whether that advice was grounded in public policy.

The panel said that the only reasons the committee gave for rejecting Amazon’s applications were the “strong presumption” arising from the GAC advice and two reasons advanced by Brazil and Peru. Because the government’s reasons don’t appear to be based on “well-founded public policy concerns,” only the advice supports the committee’s decision, the panel said.

“The GAC consensus advice, standing alone, cannot supplant the Board’s independent and objective decision with a reasoned analysis,” the panel said.

The panel said that if the board, after its reevaluation, decides not to follow the GAC advice, it should cite the panel’s declaration in its explanation. If the board decides Amazon’s application should proceed, it should meet with the GAC within 60 days, the panel said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Alexis Kramer in Washington at aKramer@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Keith Perine at kperine@bna.com

For More Information

The IRP declaration is available at http://src.bna.com/qSk.

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