ICANN’s program to expand the available generic Top-Level Domains (gTLDs) is well underway. The well-known .com, .gov, and .org strings have been and continue to be supplemented with hundreds of new strings, and likely hundreds more are on the way. Many of these strings are probably innocuous to most businesses, such as .bike and .camera. But one string on the horizon will be of particular interest to financial institutions: the top level domain ".BANK" will soon be available.
Financial institutions will soon be able to register domain names such as www.<bank-name>.bank in addition to www.<bank-name>.com. The .BANK registry is owned by a joint effort of the American Bankers Association and the Financial Services Roundtable. Domain names in .BANK will only be registered upon proof that the party filing the registration is an eligible financial institution, such as a bank or savings association that is chartered and supervised by a government authority. The hope is that the public will be able to trust websites using the restricted .BANK top level domain more than they trust those domains using the unrestricted .COM top level domain.
Financial institutions that have their trademarks registered in the Trademark Clearinghouse (TMCH) have the first opportunity to register in the .BANK top level domain. Registration in the TMCH allows a company to register internet domain names corresponding to those trademarks during what’s known as the “sunrise period,” i.e., before registration is opened to the general public. After the sunrise period closes, registration of domain names is open to all qualifying institutions in the “general availability” period.
The sunrise period for .BANK begins on May 18, 2015, and ends on June 17, 2015. For those banks that have not yet registered their trademarks in the TMCH, if they act quickly, they still might have time to both (a) register their trademarks in the TMCH and (b) rely on that registration to register internet domain names corresponding to those trademarks during the sunrise period for .BANK.
After the sunrise period is over, domain names will be made available to qualifying financial institutions during the subsequent .BANK general availability period. At that point, any qualifying institution can purchase domain names.