Digital Agenda Commissioner Neelie Kroes has thrown her weight behind Europe's wine producers holding geographical indication (GI) rights in a spat over the creation of the new top-level domain names .wine' and .vin'. In a letter, dated 12 September and seen by Europolitics agriculture, Kroes requested the .wine and .vin application process - carried out by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), which is a private, non-profit organisation located in California, US - to be frozen until adequate safeguards for wine GIs are agreed.

"Under no circumstances can we agree having .wine and .vin on the internet without sufficient safeguards, which efficiently protect the rights and interests of both GI rights holders and consumers of wine and wine products," Kroes said in the letter, hinting that ICANN's credibility is at stake. She argued in favour of "serious negotiations" between the GI rights holder organisations and the applicants for the .wine and .vin domain names to start as soon as possible in order to overcome the current stalemate. A solution put forward by the Commission at an earlier stage suggested setting a number of safeguards, which would put GIs on equal footing with trademarks and copyrights as well as provide for a "certain insight" for GI rights holders in ICANN's registration policies.

In a statement, issued on 16 September, the European Federation of Origin Wines (EFOW) welcomed Kroes' strong involvement. "ICANN and the applicants should be aware that they are facing a united front at the European level," EFOW's President, Riccardo Ricci Curbastro, warned. "They still hold the key to the solution," he added.

The domain spat has erupted after ICANN launched a million-dollar programme to extend the generic top-level domain name catalogue (currently 22 suffixes that appear at the end of address after the dot', such as .com, .org, .gov and .info) by hundreds of new domain names, including .wine and .vin. The European Commission, in tandem with major wine producing EU member states (France, Italy, Spain, Hungary, Luxembourg and Portugal) and the...

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