All businesses rely on the Internet and clients must prepare for a number of dramatic developments in the domain name space.
New Generic Top-Level Domains
ICANN marches on towards opening up the Internet to allow an unlimited number of new generic top-level domains (gTLD). In addition to the existing list of .com, .net, .org., .info, .mobi, and a handful of others, now there could be .London, .lawyer, .oil, .bank, or anything else that a would-be registry with a serious amount of cash to invest cares to apply for.
This unprecedented opening up of the gTLD space poses real challenges for brand owners and will require rethinking of defensive domain name registration.
The fourth Draft Applicant Guidebook, which outlines the procedures and rules for applying to run a new gTLD registry, issued in May. Comments are due by July 21, 2010. This will be the hot topic at ICANN's meeting next week. Although domain name lawyers and others who are close to the issue have been questioning the need or justification for new gTLD's and clamoring for more trademark protections for at least two years, most brand owners still seem complacently unaware of the implications of new gTLD's. There was more interest in the topic at INTA this year, at least. Hot topics include logistics for a proposed rapid suspension for obvious cases of cybersquatting; and a central trademarks database for sunrise applications so that brand owners do not have to go through the paperwork of proving trademark rights for each different top level domain that has a sunrise early application period for trademark owners.
Internationalized Domain Names
Meanwhile, ICANN is overseeing another unprecedented expansion of the country code top-level domain (ccTLD) space in approving applications from countries who wish to have top-level domains in other alphabets. So far, Russia and Egypt lead the way for Cyrillic and Arabic domains, but many others are in the process. Once again, brand owners with any kind of international presence have to reconsider active domain registration strategy as well as defense of transliterations of key brands. Some experts wonder if IDN's will provide further opportunities for phishing and other fraudulent activity. The domain name system cannot actually recognize non-ASCII alphabets, so the non-ASCII alphabets are mapped onto ASCII codes which are not seen by the user.
A more comprehensive article on this topic can be found HERE.
Two-letter .uk names
The UK currently does not allow registration of two-letter domains under .co.uk. (A few were registered before 1996 but then they were stopped.) For example, British Airways has ba.com, but not ba.co.uk; British Petroleum has bp.com, but not bp.co.uk. Nominet, the UK registry, has just completed a round of comments on whether and how to roll out registration of two-letter domains in the UK. .co.uk is one of the most important and popular ccTLD registries, so this is big news for owners of two-letter trademarks.