New gTLDs: first revocation of a dotBRAND for breach of the registry agreement

On June 27, 2020, ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) revoked the .AIGO brandTLD. The Chinese company Aigo Digital Technology Co, Ltd, manufacturer of electronic products, had obtained the acquisition of this top-level domain in 2016, probably intending to conquer the non-Chinese speaking markets.

Many Chinese companies have acquired a brandTLD, either exclusively in ASCII (e.g. .ANQUAN, .SHOUJI, .XIHUAN and .YUN, all registered by Qihoo 360 and .ICBC, by the Commercial Bank of China), or in the two writing systems (for example .KERRYHOTELS and. 嘉 里 大 酒店, delegated to Kerry Trading or .PCCW and. 電訊 盈科, granted to PCCW Enterprises). For its part, Aigo had acquired only .AIGO.

Legally, the delegation of a top-level domain results in the signing of a contract between ICANN and the registry, known as the  Registry Agreement. In addition, Specification 13 .Brand TLD Provisions  (icann.org) is incorporated into the Registry Agreement.  It was in 2015 that the contract between ICANN and Aigo was concluded (icann.org, 2015-08-06). In 2016, Aigo’s request met all the requirements, including the harsh financial and technical conditions (iana.org, 2016-08-16), to be entrusted with the top-level domain .AIGO, of which it effectively obtained the delegation (iana.org, 2016-08-12).

However, as of March 30, 2018, ICANN sent Aigo a letter of formal notice in which the Californian organization pointed to a series of contractual breaches concerning, in particular, the failure to pay fees and the absence of various mandatory mentions on the institutional website of the company (icann.org, 2018-03-30). With Aigo remaining silent, ICANN ends up triggering the med-arb (mediation-arbitration) clauses contained in the Registry Ageement and Specification 13 .Brand TLD Provisions . ICANN Board meeting reports suggest that Aigo did not participate in resolving the dispute (icann.org, 2019-08, p. 9;  icann.org, 2020-01, p. 11). In this context, on June 25, 2020, ICANN terminated the Registry Agreement with Aigo, with immediate effect, and without the need to find a successor registry operator, Aigo being the registrant of all the .AIGO domain names (icann.org, 2020 -06-27 ).

Revocation of a top-level domain is not uncommon, including among dotBRANDs (e.g. .DODGE, .CHRYSLER or .TELEFONICA; icann.org ). However, to our knowledge, the revocation of .AIGO is the first to take place after a contractual dispute with ICANN.

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