In 2012, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), U.S. government-contracted non-profit company that oversees the Domain Name System, began accepting applications for domain names coming after the "dot" (i.e., .gucci).
Also known as new global top-level domains (new gTLDs), brand owners will have to act fast to protect their marks. As in-house counsel, it's likely that you've had to deal with some trademark and/or cybersquatting issues. While your first reaction may be to think that ICANN is opening up a whole new (I)can of worms for you to deal with -- there are many reasons why your company should consider registering for a new gTLD.
1. Preventing Piracy
Inside Counsel reports "that for the first time, domain names will take on trademark significance." Learning from the cybersquatting on "left of the dot" websites, ICANN has implemented policies and procedures designed to protect trademark owners.
2. Productive Use of Resources
The cost of registering a gTLD is $185,000 for the first year, and $25,000 annually thereafter. That's significantly higher than registering a "left of the dot" website -- because of that, it's likely to see much less cybersquatting. Instead of companies using resources defensively to fight domain name pirates, companies can use their resources in an offensive manner.
3. Required Disclosures
First, you don't just buy a new gTLD -- you apply for one. The application is a complex process that has its own guidebook, and requires particular documents and information, financial and legal disclosures and evaluation periods lasting nine to 20 months. ICANN has even opened up a trademark clearinghouse to ward off piracy.
4. Dispute Resolution
Once an application is accepted, it will be posted on ICANN's website and third-parties may file objections that will be dealt with by an independent body, the Dispute Resolution Service Providers (DRSP).
5. Ensuring Legitimacy
New gTLDs are not only for company names can also be used for geographic areas. For example ".amazon" and ".patagonia" applications made by the respective companies were unsuccessful because they were contested by South American countries, reports Inside Counsel. But, if geographic areas are given new gTLDS, such as Napa or Kobe, it's one way to ensure that the goods promoted are genuine and held up to industry standards.
In July, ICANN announced that 1,092 new gTLD applications "have passed the initial evaluation process," reports Inside Counsel. ICANN states, and we agree, that the new gTLDs will "potentially change the way people find information on the Internet and how businesses plan and structure their online presence."
If your company has not yet initiated the process, you should consider getting started, because the enhanced procedures mean that it could take a year or two before your company gets its new gTLD. And if we learned anything before, when it comes to online presence, it's always better to be there early.