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Michelin comments on GAC Safeguard Advice

  • To: <comments-gac-safeguard-advice-23apr13@xxxxxxxxx>
  • Subject: Michelin comments on GAC Safeguard Advice
  • From: Dreyfus & associés <contact@xxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Wed, 15 May 2013 19:28:44 +0200

The following comments are submitted on behalf of Michelin.

Since 1889, Michelin has constantly innovated to facilitate the mobility of
people and goods. Today, it is setting the benchmark across every tire and
travel-related services market, while leading a global strategy to drive
sustainable, profitable growth. With more than 115,000 employees, Michelin
has produced 184 million tires and sold close to 10 million maps and guides
in 2011. Michelin is #1 in the passenger car light truck and truck tires

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 .tires
(application # 1-2123-56973 by Bridgestone Americas Tire Operations, LLC and
application # 1-1884-1217 by The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company). 

Michelin publicly expressed its opposition to these applications which are
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

Michelin 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 a major stakeholder 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 tire industry is largely dependent of the DNS (Domain
Name System). The Internet is with no doubt one the major channel of sales,
from information to the selection of a tire dealer, and this although the
sale of tires requires mounting in a garage. In an increasingly digital
world, it is now second nature for most consumers to start their search for
tires from their computer or mobile device. Running attractive and efficient
websites built on easy to remember domain names are a key to access a good
SEO ranking on search engines.

The generic term "tires" in English cannot benefit and be operated by one
single stakeholder, which moreover is a major tire manufacturing company in
the market. Indeed, such monopolies will necessarily end up harming the
other actors of the market, including tire reseller, tire manufacturer or
other stakeholder of the tire industry since the Applicants will be in a
position to discretionarily impose their conditions for the registration of
domain names and referencing and sale of tires, excluding de facto any other
tire manufacturing company of their choice, from the tires 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 studies have
yet been published.

Major stakeholders from all economic sectors have expressed concerns and
published comments opposing to these "Closed Generic gTLD Applications".

Like Governments and the long list of opponents, Michelin 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.

Michelin 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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