The introduction of new generic top level domains (gTLDs) is set to change the game in online brand protection when ICAAN announces the new generation of gTLDs over the months ahead, says IP lawyer Wayne Beynon.
But first a little background. On 20th June 2011 ICANN’s (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) board voted to end many of the restrictions on the generic top-level domain names (gTLD) from the 22 currently available (eg – com, info, net, edu, gov, int). Companies and organizations were now free to choose arbitrary top-level Internet domains which could include new international domains (eg – .wales or .cymru) including those using non-Western alphabets, branded domains (.google or .amazon) and new generic domains like .auto and .bank.
ICANN began accepting applications for new gTLDs on 12th January 2012, with the initial price to apply for a new gTLD being $185,000.
Industry analysts predict around 500–1000 new gTLDs, which will largely reflect the names of companies and products (eg – .apple, .coke), but also cities (eg – .london) and generic names like bank and sport.
Interestingly, ICAAN recently established the first new generic top level domains and the first to make the cut were the Arabic word for web or network (.شبكة), game in Chinese (.游戏), and the Russian for online (.онлайн), as well as website (.сайт), all of which will be the first gTLDs ever to use non-Latin characters. Any further decisions on Latin character gTLDs have yet to be made and if the early problems are to be used as an indicator of how things may progress, this could very well become a long and drawn out process.
Perhaps the biggest example of the current teething problems within the new system is the case of Amazon, the internet retail giant, who put in a high number of different applications for gTLD’s that ranged from .amazon, to .book and .shop. However, initial proposals from ICAAN have indicated that the retailer should not be given control of the .amazon domain, likely due to complaints from Latin American countries such as Argentina, Brazil, and Chile. In a letter to ICANN, they argued that .amazon “is a geographic name that represents important territories of some of our countries.”
Concerns have also been raised over ‘Closed Generic Strings’ in which the applicant would be the sole registrant for the TLD. For example, objections were raised by publishers over Amazon’s .book application. Amazon is the largest global applicant for closed gTLDs and unfortunately for the retail giant nearly all of its applications have been contested.
And more problems inevitably lie ahead. On 13th June 2012, it was announced that ICANN received about 1,930 applications for new gTLD’s, 751 of which were contested. Most of these remain unresolved ahead of the initial roll out over the forthcoming months.
Wayne Beynon is an intellectual property lawyer at Cardiff and London based law firm Capital Law. For more information visit www.capitallaw.co.uk.