It has been a busy year for ICANN, the organization responsible for the creation and implementation of domain names. In April, ICANN approved the long disputed and controversial .XXX extension. A few weeks ago, ICANN also finally approved the new generic top level domain (gTLD) program. These developments present a number of issues for trademark owners and entities that conduct a significant amount of business online.
Our initial blog on the proposed expansion of the gTLD space can be found here. On June 20, 2011 ICANN finally approved the new gTLD program. The first round of applications will open January 12, 2012 and last for three months. There will be a $185,000 fee for each application, but given the costs associated with preparing and filing an application, responding to potential objections, delegating the new extension to the root zone and operating the new gTLD, entities should anticipate an initial cost of at least $400,000 to $500,000 for securing a unique gTLD.
Each application filed during the initial round of applications will be reviewed to ensure that the application is complete and then ICANN will publish a list of all complete applications including all non-confidential portions of the application and the desired new extension. This publication opens the period for third-parties to file an objection to any of the new applications as well as opening the public comment period.
Whether your company should apply for a new extension largely depends on whether you have a business plan for monetizing the new domain or can express a clear value to having your own extension. A brand gTLD may represent a unique opportunity to unify a companies’ electronic communications around an existing brand and may provide an effective mechanism for combating cybersquatters as customer learn to recognize that only communications with the brand gTLD originate from your company. That being said, any entity that conducts a significant amount of business online, whether they intend to apply for their own extension or not, will need to plan for how they will protect their trademarks from a third-party applying for an extension similar to their brand and for protecting trademarks at the second level (i.e. to the left of the dot) in a vastly expanded domain space.
Additional details can be found in our complete client advisory. We encourage you and your business colleagues to learn the ins and outs of ICANN’s new rules now. While a huge change to the Internet is on the horizon, informed parties can stay ahead by mapping a strategy now.
How might this affect your business? What are your thoughts on ICANN’s decision?