Yes, AMAZON®, there is a river — No to .amazon

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Aerial Photography - The River

Amazon, a once tiny bookseller, has become Amazon the brand bully. However, the bully was called into the principal’s office  this week by ICANN. This happened only after Brazil and other Latin countries joined forces in an effort to prevent approval of Amazon’s generic top level domain (gTLD) application.  An ICANN committee meeting in South Africa recently recommended rejection of  Amazon’s application to own .amazon for the Internet.  Amazon Rejected As Domain.  In a letter to ICANN, the countries wrote:

“In particular ‘.amazon’ is a geographic name that represents important territories of some of our countries, which have relevant communities, with their own culture and identity directly connected with the name,” the letter said. “Beyond the specifics, this should also be understood as a matter of principle.”

The issue of  the Amazon River also points out the challenges involved when one attempts to control a geographically descriptive term as a trademark, even when not being used in a descriptive sense.

We discussed earlier on Brandaide that the entire generic top level domain name mechanism is suspect.  The costs to global brand owners to monitor abuse of trademarks and brand names in gTLD’s is creating a new layer of complexities for brand owners and their counsel.

For years now, Amazon’s attorneys would have one think the Amazon River never existed.  A number of years ago, one of my firm’s clients was sued by Amazon over use of the  “Amazon Networks” in a domain for computer services, a term our client  innocently registered about the same time Amazon launched as a bookseller.  Amazon falsely claimed in federal court our client was a domain cybersquatter.   In fact,  the homepage of our client’s first website featured an image of the Amazon River.  Today, this case would likely be labeled, reverse domain name hijacking, where someone falsely claims rights to an innocent party’s domain.