Brand Owner Alert - ICANN Approves Branded gTLDs

ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) today approved implementation of global top level (gTLD) branded/generic domains.  A gTLD is the familiar .com or .org ending to a website domain name.  This allows domain name registrars (DNRs) - for example GoDaddy - to offer a gTLD such as .cola and sell registry of domains such as coke.cola and pepsi.cola.  Applications for new gTLDs will be accepted from 12 January 2012 to 12 April 2012.  Bidding begins at $185,000 per domain.  In the event of multiple applications, there will be an auction.  Some large brand holders plan to apply themselves as DNR’s, for example Canon has announced that they would like to take .canon.

In order to register a gTLD, DNRs will need to show some legitimate claim to the new TLD that they are claiming and buying to prevent cyber-squatting – for example, the registration of the gTLD .coke or .ibm.  The upshot for brand owners is that they will need to police the pending gTLD applications to ensure that their trademarks are not applied for as gTLD’s by unscrupulous DNRs.  The draft proposal contains an opposition practice in the event of a conflict with a brand arises and other protections for brand owners.  In order to receive the full benefits of these protections brand owners must have their marks validated and entered by ICANN prior to the launch of new gTLDs.  The new gTLDs also increase the potential for traditional cyber squatting by opening up yet more gTLDs for use.  For example, Coca Cola would now also have to watch registrations under .cola (assuming that .cola becomes a gTLD). 

If you would like more information about how to monitor and deal with the upcoming gTLDs with respect to your brand please contact the undersigned.

Henry J. Cittone