On 13 June 2012, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, (ICANN) published the long-awaited list of the 1930 applications it received for new generic Top-Level Domains, (gTLDs). The publication of the list heralds the beginning of a new era for the internet.
As expected the applications fall into a number of categories including geographic designations (.africa, .barcelona, .wales), company or brand names (.garnier, .landrover, .youtube) , industry categories (.beauty, .insurance, .law) and “community” gTLDs (.music, .radio, .kids). As the application fee and the associated costs of running a domain name registry are high, it is surprising that only 20% of the applications came from major brand holders, and it is interesting to note that many of the brand giants expected to make applications such as Coca Cola, Facebook and Disney, abstained from the application process.
There were multiple applications made for various gTLDs including 13 applications for.app, nine applications for .cloud and six applications for .law. Following further examination of these “multiple” applications by ICANN, the applicants that meet the registration criteria will be afforded an opportunity to voluntarily negotiate a settlement for the applied-for gTLD with the other applicants for the same gTLD. If a settlement cannot be reached, the operator of the gTLD will be decided by an auction run by ICANN.
The publication of the list of applications represents the first step in the registration process of the new gTLDs. The applications are now subject to evaluation by ICANN’s evaluation panels, which will review whether the applied-for gTLDs meet ICANN’s technical requirements and whether the applicant possesses the appropriate technical, operational and financial capabilities to run a domain registry. The public has until 12 August 2012 to submit comments to ICANN on issues that they think should be considered in the evaluation of the gTLD applications. Such comments will not constitute a formal objection but may affect ICANN’s determination as to the registrability of the applied-for gTLD.
As well as evaluation by ICANN, the applications are open to objection by interested parties. The objection period is now open and is expected to run until January 2013. Objections may be filed on any of the following grounds:
- String Confusion – an applied-for gTLD is confusingly similar to an existing top-level domain or another applied-for gTLD;
- Legal Rights – an applied-for gTLD violates the trade mark rights of an objector;
- Limited Public Interest – an applied-for gTLD is contrary to the accepted norms of morality and public order;
- Community – in relation to the proposed community-based gTLDs that are intended to operate for the benefit of a clearly defined and established community with a restricted population (.art, .music, .radio), an opposition may be filed where a significant portion of the relevant community opposes the proposed gTLD.
Corporates and SMEs should take the opportunity to review the complete list of gTLDs on ICANN’s website to ensure that their trade mark portfolio is not infringed by the gTLD applications. The full list is available here. If, upon review of the list, it appears that an applied-for gTLD is either identical or confusingly similar to the earlier trade mark rights of a company, or if it appears that an applied-for gTLD is contrary to the accepted norms of morality and public order, the company should consider filing an objection.