On January 12, 2012, ICANN (the good people in charge of the Internet) will begin accepting applications for any number of new General Top Level Domains (“gTLDs”). What this means is that the current known universe of domain extensions, .com, .org., .info, and so on, will be open for expansion. A company may apply to become a registrar of its own domain extension and, if approved, may then sell domain names attached to that extension or use the domain names itself (think “.burgerking” or “.ibm”). Some commentators predict the result will be a “new Internet” creating exciting opportunities for web users and brand holders alike.
Many companies, large and small, are looking at the possible outcome of gTLD expansion to determine how it will affect them. Although much of this must be speculation, we do know that the period for new applications will only last for a limited time (until April 2012) and there is no guaranty it will come again. Even if the process is confusing, companies should make an effort to understand what will be happening and decide what, if any, action they will take in response. Brand holders should assemble the appropriate team to consider possible levels of participation and how to protect their brands on the new Internet. How would your company be affected if another party were able to sell gTLDs with your company name as the extension? Could establishing your own company name gTLD help build your brand and set it apart on the expanding web?
More information about the new gTLD program can be found at www.icann.org. Whether you already have a plan in place or this is the first you have heard of it, attorneys in Sideman & Bancroft’s Intellectual Property Practice Group are available to answer any questions you have about the subject.
This publication is for informational purposes only and is not intended to provide legal or tax advice, or to create an attorney-client relationship.
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