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New Domain Names to Bring New Trademark Issues for Companies

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By Stephanie Rabiner, Esq. on June 28, 2011 6:47 AM

Last week, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, or ICANN, announced that it voted in favor of opening up the web to new domain names, allowing well-funded persons to move away from the traditional dot-coms and dot-nets to more branded sites, like dot-ford and dot-pfizer.

Though the organization hopes that the new flexibility will increase innovation, it's also likely to be a big headache for those who wish to protect their trademarks and brand identities.

Under these rules, new domain names can be anything and in any language, reports The Wall Street Journal. If you want a dot-think or a dot-apple, you can have it so long as you're willing to shell out $185,000 to apply and $25,000 yearly to maintain rights.

While this certainly opens up opportunities for companies to increase their online presence and ensure customers that they are at the correct site, it's also a big draw for cybersquatters.

ICANN claims that it will cancel any domains that are purchased in bad faith and violate trademarks. It also plans to maintain a database to track registered names.

That may not be enough, and should your company come upon a domain name cybersquatter, you may have to rely on the Anti-cybersquatting Consumer Protection Act, which offers some protection against domain name trademark infringement.

However, with such a high price tag and likely consumer confusion, it's unclear just how many new domain names will surface in the next few years. If you're lucky, there will be very few, and no one will target your company.

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