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Sports gTLDs – a hotly contested commodity

In June 2012, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) announced details of the applications it had received for new generic Top Level Domains (gTLDs).  In layman’s terms, a gTLD is the “bit after the dot”, so for example two companies have applied for the right to control the gTLD “.football”, and to register second level domains within that (arsenal.football, nike.football, etc). Our earlier detailed article on the topic is here.

Competing applicants (Donuts Inc. and Roar Domains) for the .rugby and .basketball gTLDs have clashed over who should have the right to own them. Roar has partnered with the Internet Basketball Federation (FIBA) and the International Rugby Board (IRB) to apply for and run .basketball and .rugby. Donuts is the largest gTLD applicant, having filed over 300 applications.

National governments had the opportunity to file comments on gTLD applications last year, and the governments of the UK and Greece filed comments in support of Roar’s .rugby and .basketball applications respectively (on the basis that these, unlike Donuts’, represent the community of players, supporters and stakeholders).  Separately, Roar and the IRB wrote to Donuts in December 2012, asking Donuts to withdraw their applications. 

Roar’s argument is that it serves as “the voice and arm for FIBA and IRB in the New gTLD area”. It has also received support from “preeminent rugby associations across the world”. Donuts responded by letters sent this month to the two governments, stating their belief that “a neutral third party, such as Donuts…can be best capable of” running gTLDs safely and securely.  Donuts also point out that ICANN’s application process allows for priority for applications designated as representing a “community”, but that Roar had not opted to apply on this basis.  It is, however, still open to the sports governing bodies to file a community-based objection to Donuts’ applications (and the IRB has already threatened to do so). 

At this stage, both sides look unlikely to back down, having invested substantially in the process so far.  The deadline for objections to gTLD applications (which can be made on the basis of trade mark as well as community rights) is 13 March 2013, so businesses wishing to launch such objections should act quickly.

Donuts’ letter to the UK Government can be accessed here and the letter to the Greek Government here.

Permanent link to this article: https://blogs.dlapiper.com/mediaandsport/2013/01/sports-gtlds-a-hotly-contested-commodity/