Using arguments that will be familiar to trademark owners, the European Banking Authority (EBA) recently urged ICANN to discontinue the availability of the ‘.bank’ and ‘.fin’ gTLDs. In response, ICANN has highlighted existing dispute resolution mechanisms, recommending that the EBA work with any potential applicants once these are made public.

In a letter to ICANN dated February 20 2012, Andrea Enria, chair of the EBA, urged that the potential availability of the ‘.bank’ and ‘.fin’ gTLDs for applicants be withdrawn, based on concern that these strings would be susceptible to “misuse by unscrupulous individuals”.

In addition to a potential rise in fraudulent and phishing activities at the second level, Enria also pointed to the subsequent need for legitimate financial institutions to “establish costly and complex legal or commercial initiatives in order to safeguard their trademarks from frauds and abuses”.

It has been reported that one applicant for the ‘.bank’ gTLD, BITS, stated that only financial services companies would be allowed to register domain names at the ‘.bank’ second level if its application if successful. However, at present it is not known who else may have bid for the TLD, hence the fear that a less discerning entity may prevail.

All these arguments and fears are familiar to the trademark community, which has stressed both the financial burden of reacting to the new gTLD space and the danger of infringement at the second level. Therefore, the bid to get the ‘.bank’ and ‘.fin’ TLDs effectively shelved is of interest to counsel outside the financial services industry.  

However, in the formal response to the EBA, seen today by WTR, ICANN’s chief operating officer Akram Atallah has stressed that the EBA should consider the objection processes currently in place in the gTLD programme, encouraging it to both “actively monitor the ICANN website [once applications are made public] and consider what actions to take, as appropriate” and “to work closely with any known potential applicants for ‘.bank’ or ‘.fin’ to address any issues/concerns with regards the use of these particular strings”.

Citing the four types of objections available to the EBA (and others), he notes that “each applicant accepts the applicability of this gTLD dispute resolution process and, similarly, an objector accepts the applicability of this gTLD dispute resolution process when filing an objection”. He also highlighted the additional processes available through the Government Advisory Committee (GAC).

It is through the GAC that objections to ‘.bank’ are likely to originate, but in the meantime, financial services industry stakeholders will join other communities in waiting for the unveiling of applications in May.

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RE: No special treatment for financial industry over ‘.bank’ and ‘.fin’ gTLDs

A very interesting item, as usual. The cynics amongst us would conclude that ICANN's principal concern is revenue.

Chris McLeod, Elkington + Fife on 07 Mar 2012 @ 14:58

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