Pinterest goes to battle over Amazon domain play

Among the proposed new domain extensions that wants to control is .pin, something that Pinterest doesn't want to happen.


Here's one that can't come as a surprise to the legal team at Pinterest is fighting Amazon's bid to win the contract to control the .pin generic top-level-domain, or gTLD.

Among the reasons for Pinterest's objections: Domain names on .pin --, say, or whatever Amazon has in mind -- would cause confusion and violate the trademarks that Pinterest holds on the term "pin." Those trademarks include "the standalone PIN trademark and a family of PIN-formative marks, including Pinterest, PIN It, P, and others," according to the complaint -- not yet made public -- that Pinterest filed with the World Intellectual Property Organization. (A Pinterest spokesperson says the "P" trademark refers to the stylized "P.")

This is just one of the many disputes emerging as the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) goes through the long process of deciding who gets control of which new domain names. It's all part of ICANN's program to expand the domain landscape by letting brands and anyone else with money and the technical know-how apply to run dot-anything. All told, ICANN received 1,930 applications, although there was a lot of overlap.

Amazon, which did not respond to requests for comment, is among the biggest applicants for the new gTLDs. It's going after 76 in all, and last week it won approval for three of them, including the Japanese word for "Amazon", the Japanese word for "store" and the Japanese word for "fashion".

ICANN is approving the so-called new domain strings in batches, and it's still dealing with the objections from the likes of Pinterest. After ICANN files the official objections, Amazon and others have 30 days to respond. (For a helpful timeline on the objection process, check out this piece on DomainNameWire, and keep in mind that there have been wrinkles in this process along the way, so who knows when it'll all get sorted out.)

Amazon's applications are noteworthy not just because the e-commerce giant is going after so many gTLDs, but because of how it says it will operate the ones it does win. Based on the applications posted on ICANN's Web site, Amazon wants to run the names with a range of restrictions -- meaning they'll be tied to Amazon's business goals and not, say, available to the public in the way that .com names are, with Verisign acting as the registry.

Dig into Amazon's applications -- whether it's .you, .book, .shop, or .news -- and you'll find similar language. Not just that "All domains in the .YOU registry will remain the property of Amazon," for example, but that "Amazon and its subsidiaries will be the only eligible registrants." Already, the Authors Guild and the Association of American Publishers have blasted Amazon's bid to control .book, .author and .read, arguing that it could give Amazon far too much influence.

In the case of .pin, Pinterest's objection says that, in addition to trademark concerns, Pinterest and Amazon are in some ways direct competitors.

Pinterest helps people discover the things they love. Amazon helps people buy them. Many people use Pinterest as an online catalog. Amazon is an online store. They coexist in common streams of commerce, but they cannot remain distinct with a common name. ...Amazon should not be allowed to co-opt PIN by adopting the exact same string as a gTLD.
Moreover, Pinterest argues that its social network helps solve one of the biggest complaints about Amazon, which is that it's hard to discover things you might be interested in buying. On a typical day, Pinterest's objection says, "50,000 Pinterest users PIN or RE-PIN content from," and more than "3 million Pinterest users see 16 million PINS from"

All of which leads to this question: why didn't Pinterest just go through the trouble of applying to control the .pin trademark itself?

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