ICANN allows new generic top-level domain applications

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) is responsible for the development and release of generic Top-Level Domains (gTLDs) such as .com and .net. Such gTLDs are typically registered in combination with millions of other different second level domains (such as shelstonip.com).

 

Until recently, there has only been a total of twenty two (22) approved gTLDs. However, ICANN has decided to expand this and recently developed a procedure for organisations to develop their own gTLDs which potentially include brands and trading names.

Applications for the first round of new gTLDs recently closed and a list of the gTLD strings applied for can be located here. By way of example, companies who have filed applications for new gTLDs include L’Oreal (.makeup), Bayerische Motoren Werke AG (.bmw) and Hasbro International, Inc (.transformers). Applicants for new gTLDs from Australia include the Australian Football League (.afl), several Australian banks (.anz, .cba, .nab) and Open Universities Australia Pty Ltd (.study).

An opportunity for public comment and third party objection to these new gTLD strings is currently available. Objections may be made by a person with requisite standing on the following grounds:

String Confusion Objection – The applied-for gTLD string is confusingly similar to an existing TLD or to another applied for gTLD string in the same round of applications.Legal Rights Objection – The applied-for gTLD string infringes the existing legal rights of the objector.Limited Public Interest Objection – The applied-for gTLD string is contrary to generally accepted legal norms of morality and public order that are recognized under principles of international law.Community Objection – There is substantial opposition to the gTLD application from a significant portion of the community to which the gTLD string may be explicitly or implicitly targeted.

There are advantages for businesses registering their own gTLDs. For example, a gTLD owner will have the ability to control use of that gTLD by establishing rules for doing so. The owner may choose to limit who (and more importantly who cannot) register their second level domain in combination with the new gTLD. The owner of such a gTLD also has the ability to sell “second level” domain name licences at a price of their choosing (or may choose not to sell them at all).

New gTLDs may also be registered in languages other than in English, including Chinese, Arabic and Cyrillic, which will potentially attract many new customers.

The registration of established brands as new gTLDs is potentially of significant value to businesses. Customers are more likely to be confident that a domain name registration which ends with a gTLD that is a brand (such as .microsoft) is really associated with the brand owner. The registration of a brand as a gTLD may also provide better brand control, new investment opportunities and demonstrate leadership in internet technology.

However, there are also cogent reasons why businesses may not want to even consider registering new gTLDs. There are significant initial investment costs for applying to operate a gTLD, with costs of US$185,000 (or more) payable just to apply for a gTLD. The process for registering a gTLD is quite lengthy and likely to take in excess of twelve months. It is necessary to demonstrate a technical capacity to control a gTLD and there will also be significant ongoing costs associatedwith operating a gTLD registry. This will be beyond the reach of many businesses.

While brand owners may choose not to seek registration of gTLDs, monitoring applications filed by potential competitors is recommended and a decision can then be made whether or not to comment or object.