Online retailer recently lost its bid to capitalize on the ongoing expansion of generic top-level domains (gTLDs). A committee of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the international organization that oversees Internet domains, rejected its application for the domain “.amazon” after objections by several Latin American countries.

While entities have traditionally been limited to an Internet extension such as .com, .net or .org, ICANN is now allowing businesses, organizations, and governments to operate a gTLD of their own choosing. Applications are subject to a public comment and objection period, as well independent evaluation system by ICANN.

In this case, a group of Latin American countries, including Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Peru and Uruguay, sent a letter to ICANN objecting to Amazon’s application. “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.”

In defense of its application, Amazon argued that it complied fully with the ICANN process, including ICANN’s Applicant Guidebook. It includes a list of geographic names that require letters of non-objection from the impacted government or local authority. However, Amazon was not listed.

“Prior to filing our applications Amazon carefully reviewed the Application Guidebook; we followed the rules,” Amazon senior corporate counsel Stacey King stated in response to the committee’s recommendation. “You are now being asked to significantly and retroactively modify these rules.”

In the wake of the Amazon decision, Corporate Counsel reports that many brand owners are rethinking whether to apply for new domain names based on fears that the process is too burdensome and unpredictable. Legal experts have also expressed concern that the ICANN committee is not following the basic tenants of trademark law, under which governments do not hold exclusive rights to geographic terms.

The decision of the Governmental Advisory Committee is not the final word. The full ICANN board could still overturn the decision, but given the opposition raised, it is unlikely that the appeal will be granted.

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I am and avid amateur astronomer and intellectual property attorney in Pasadena, California and I am a Rising Star as rated by Super Lawyers Magazine.  As a former Chief Petty Officer in the U.S. Navy, I am a proud member of the Armed Service Committee of the Los Angeles County Bar Association working to aid all active duty and veterans in our communities. Connect with me on Google +