Panel handles tricky case involving what many consider a generic term.
Sina and Tencent were the only applicants for .weibo and .微博, so the contention set has been settled.
I’m not so sure about the outcome of these Legal Rights Objections.
But my feelings echo dissenting panelist Matthew Harris, who noted that the other two panelists have more knowledge about Chinese law and how the words are used there.
Weibo, or 微博, is the term for a micro-blogging service in China (think Twitter). There’s quite a bit of debate about whether or not it’s a generic term or a trademark.
Lots of companies have launched what they call “weibo” services in China. Yet Sina has a trademark on 微博.
In the end, that’s what it seemed to come down to. The majority of the panel was willing to accept the current standing of the Chinese trademark rather than the ongoing dispute regarding it.
It also considered that Tencent planned to keep the string closed. If weibo is a generic term, as Tencent contended, then why would it keep it closed to promote its own services?
In that respect the Panel notes that the Application asserts that .weibo will be used as “a distinctive domain space” for the Applicant’s services, rather than a generic and open domain space for any users or any micro-blogging services. In other words, notwithstanding its claims about the descriptive nature of the term, the majority of the Panel concludes that the Applicant appears to plan to use the term in a non-descriptive sense for its own services.
Although a new gTLD applicant has the freedom to choose its business model, the Applicant’s plan to use the term “weibo” in the String to promote its own brand Tencent and its micro-
blogging services will in the view of the majority of the Panel inevitably impair the distinctive character of the Objector’s mark 微博.
This seems like an overstep. You can debate if a company should be able to keep something like .blog closed, but I don’t believe that should factor into a legal rights objection.
But, much like the dissenting panelist, I’m somewhat reticent to pass judgment here.