Trade New Zealand is pressing on with legal action against the current domain name holder of newzealand.com despite a position paper written for the Ministry of Economic Development that suggests it shouldn't.
Trade New Zealand has recently won the rights to the newzealand.biz name following the initial ballot that awarded the name to another party. Now it is seeking to take ownership of newzealand.com from a US-based company that has a number of country names and supplies travel and trade information about those countries.
Trade New Zealand marketing and e-business general manager Rod MacKenzie says the New Zealand brand name is an important one and it is part of Trade New Zealand's role to protect such things.
"New Zealand itself may not be a business but Trade New Zealand certainly is and we felt it only right that a New Zealand business held the name."
MacKenzie says had a New Zealand-owned company bought the newzealand.biz name then Trade New Zealand would not have challenged for ownership, however since it was taken by London-based company, it decided to appeal the decision.
"That's what the newzealand.com case is all about as well."
But an MED report, put together at the request of the World Intellectual Property Office (WIPO), suggests such actions are inappropriate and that countries may be on shaky ground in trying to enforce their rights to their own names.
"New Zealand law, custom or practice does not preclude the use of country names under any circumstances. New Zealand does not see any reason why the domain names should be excepted from this general rule," says the report, prepared by George Wardle, an advisor on intellectual property for the MED.
However an MED spokesperson, Sian Robyns, says the two points of view are not mutually exclusive.
"The Trade NZ action is being taken under WIPO's dispute resolution process - which relates to the bad faith use of trademarks as domain names by persons other than the legitimate trademark owner. This action is to do with two very specific cases and the international dialogue has to deal with a much wider context."
Robyns says the MED paper acknowledges that while countries should not have preferential treatment when it comes to domain name registration, WIPO has already indicated it would move in this direction.
"Our response to the questions noted New Zealand's reservations about WIPO's
proposed approach and the practicalities involved in implementing protection for country names. But you'll also note that we recognised that WIPO was likely to move in this direction and so provided constructive answers."
Robyns says MED has furnished a list of names to WIPO that should be protected for use by New Zealanders only, including variants on "New Zealand" and "Aotearoa".
Meanwhile Trade New Zealand's MacKenzie says he will be discussing it with MED to ensure all arms of government are working together on the issue.