Dot Whine: France Angry Over .Vin Domain Names
The French government has criticised the US body responsible for web addresses after it launched a .wine domain name.
France is famously protective of its status as the world's leading wine producer, and says the new domain could undermine its international trade agreements.
The agreements mean that use of geographical indicators like 'champagne' and region-specific wine names are protected.
These stop firms from labelling sparkling wine as Champagne, for example. France is worried that a company could buy domain names such as champagne.wine and undermine these agreements.
The European Commission, the UK and Spain have joined France to appeal to non-profit organisation Icann - which regulates web addresses - to halt the release of the two domain names.
Axelle Lemaire, France's minister for digital affairs, told the Financial Times: "The problem is Icann is totally opaque, there is no transparency at all in the process.
"These decisions could imperil the current talks on the transatlantic trade partnership by forcing the imposition of a model by the means of technical discussions on internet naming."
Earlier this year the US agreed to give up ultimate control of Icann and worldwide discussions are under way for what should replace it.
Ms Lemaire says France wants the body to be overseen by a "general assembly" including governmental representation on a "one country, one vote" basis.
Top-level talks take place in London today to explore what should happen next.
The challenge is backed by California's Napa Valley wineries.
Linda Reiff, who represents the valley's vintners, said: "The importance of protecting winegrowing place names is critical to all winegrowing regions of quality; it is not solely a European issue.
"Internet users could indeed be deceived into believing that they are buying a genuine product with specific qualities and characteristics, when they are in fact getting an imitation."