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Accor comments on GAC Safeguard Advice

  • To: <comments-gac-safeguard-advice-23apr13@xxxxxxxxx>
  • Subject: Accor comments on GAC Safeguard Advice
  • From: Dreyfus & associés <contact@xxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Mon, 13 May 2013 18:29:14 +0200

The following comments are submitted on behalf of Accor.

Accor, the world's leading hotel operator and market leader in Europe, is
present in 92 countries with more than 3,500 hotels and 450,000 rooms under
various hotel brands including Sofitel, Pullman, MGallery, Grand Mercure,
Novotel, Suite Novotel, Mercure, Adagio, ibis, ibis Styles, ibis Budget,
Hotel Formule 1, hotelF1 and Thalassa sea & spa. With more than 160,000
employees in Accor branded hotels worldwide, the Group offers its clients
and partners nearly 45 years of know-how and expertise.
Accor operates several websites through which Internet users can quickly and
easily find and book hotels.

The Governmental Advisory Committee issued on 11 April 2013 its first GAC
Advice - the GAC Beijing Communiqué - in which it lists safeguards
applicable to broad categories of new gTLD strings. Among these categories,
the GAC targets specifically a category known as "Closed Generic gTLD
Applications" under the term Exclusive Access. The GAC makes clear that "for
strings representing generic terms, exclusive registry access should serve a
public interest goal."

The GAC has identified a non-exhaustive list of 60 strings that it considers
to be generic terms, where the applicant is currently proposing to provide
exclusive registry access. This list includes the applications for .hotel
(application # 1-1249-36568 by Despegar Online SRL) and .hotels (application
# 1-1016-75482 by Booking.com B.V.).

Accor publicly expressed its opposition to these applications and also the
applications for .hoteis and .hoteles (application # 1-1249-87712 and
application # 1-1249-1940 Despegar Online SRL) which are all based on a
"Closed Registry" model, first by publishing Public Comments on applied-for
strings in September 2012, and second in participating to the public comment
period on the "Closed Generic gTLD Applications in February 2013.

Accor can only but support the GAC in this approach, insofar as it aims to
avoid the establishing of monopolies and ultimately protect consumer

These safeguards are all the more important that certain applicants have
chosen to apply for closed control of a generic term designating a
particular industry while they are in fact already engaged in the conduct of
business activities in that particular industry. The main risk is that the
delegation of a generic term matching an economic sector to one single
player will lead to a monopoly by excluding direct and indirect competitors.

Some of these generic terms are critical for the conduct of an activity and
should not be reserved for, or monopolized by, a single stakeholder in a
business category. The hotel industry is largely dependent of the DNS
(Domain Name System): 50% of travel bookings are made online and 45% of
travelers are using online travel agency search capabilities.

The generic term "hotel(s)" in English, Spanish or Portuguese cannot benefit
and be operated by one single stakeholder, which moreover is a major online
travel agency in the market. Indeed, such monopolies  will necessarily end
up harming the other actors of the market, including hotel operators since
the Applicants will be in a position to discretionarily impose their
conditions for the registration of domain names, referencing and reservation
of hotel rooms, excluding de facto any other online booking service provider
of their choice, from the hotel TLD.

"Closed Generic" gTLD Applications have been identified as a major issue for
the new gTLD program back in June 2012, when Applications were made public.
Further to several communities' expressed concerns, the New gTLD Program
Committee of the ICANN at its 2 February 2013 meeting directed the President
and CEO to (i) open a 30-day public comment forum on this topic and (ii)
request the GNSO to provide guidance on this issue. The Public Comment forum
was held from 5 February 2013 to 7 March 2013 and generated over 260
comments. Neither the Report of Public Comments, nor the GNSO study have yet
been published.

Major stakeholders from all economic sectors have expressed concerns and
published comments opposing to these "Closed Generic gTLD Applications",
including but not limited to IKEA, Microsoft, Rakuten, the US Postal
Service, USTelecom and many associations and representative bodies.
Concerning more specifically the closed generic applications composed of the
word "hotel(s)" either in English, Spanish or Portuguese, they were subject
to several negative comments from many hotel operators, online travel
agencies, representative bodies, associations and even Governments. They are
currently subject to formal Community Objections before the ICC, by major
representative bodies like HOTREC (the umbrella association of Hotels,
Restaurants and Cafés in Europe) and HCPC (the Hotel Consumer Protection

Like Governments and the long list of opponents, Accor is convinced that
allowing "Closed Generic" gTLD Applications will be a source of distortion
of competition and consumer misleading. The Affirmation of Commitments
defines the ICANN objectives which include promoting competition, consumer
trust and consumer choice. Allowing "Closed Generic" gTLD Applications will
produce the exact opposite effect.

Accor urges the ICANN to implement the GAC Advice safeguards and to forbid
any "Closed Generic" gTLD Application for a generic term.

Nathalie Dreyfus
Dreyfus & associés  - Paris | Lyon | Strasbourg
Conseils en Propriété Industrielle - Intellectual Property Attorneys
78 avenue Raymond Poincaré - 75116 Paris - France

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