The curtain has now been drawn back on the possible future structure of the Internet. On June 13, 2012, ICANN published a list of all the new proposed generic Top Level Domains (“gTLDs”). For each proposed gTLD, the list identifies each applicant (in some case, there are multiple applicants) and whether it proposes to operate the gTLD as a community .gTLD or a geographic .gTLD.
In addition, the list includes links to the public portions of the applications. The complete list can be viewed at http://newgtlds.icann.org/en/program-status/application-results/strings-1200utc-13jun12-en.
The high number and diverse nature of the applications makes it difficult to reach any broad conclusions, but our review leads us to offer the following observations.
As expected, the various strings fall in a number of different categories, including company or brand names, industry categories, geographic designations and “community” gTLDs.
Approximately 20% of the applications are for strings that correspond to company or brand names. Only two applications were submitted, however, that matched the names of the top ten Fortune 500 US corporations (.walmart and .ford). As two letter .gtlds were not available, General Electric and General Motors could not file for .ge or .gm, but neither filed for .generalmotors or .generalelectric, respectively. GE did file, however, for .gecompany and . 通用电气公司 (gecompany in Han Chinese). Similarly, GM applied for .gmc, as well as buick, .cadillac, .chevrolet, and .chevy.
Google filed for 101 applications, more than any other single trademark owner. Amazon applied for 76 gTLDs.
Who Applied and Who Did Not?
- .youtube, but not .facebook or .twitter;
- .abc, .cbs., .fox and .bbc, but not .nbc or .disney;
- .hbo and .showtime, but not .cinemax;
- .americanexpress, .amex, .discover and .visa, but not .mastercard;
- .mbl, .nfl and .nba, but not. nhl or .ncaa
- .cialis, but not .viagra;
- neither .coke nor .pepsi.
There were numerous applications for gTLDs in certain industry categories, including automobiles, sports, luxury goods, banking and insurance.
A number of companies filed for gTLDs that describe their industry or a term commonly used in their industry, including:
- .antivirus- Symantic Corporation
- .dvr – Hughes Satellite Systems
- .grocery – Safeway, Inc.
- .hair – L’Oreal
- .insurance – Progressive Casualty Insurance Co.
- .stream - Hughes Satellite Systems
- .tires - both Bridgestone and Goodyear
- .watches - Richemont (manufacturer of Cartier watches)
If any of these applicants are looking to limit the use of the gTLD to its own use or to exclude some competitors, industry groups may file objections.
There were 66 applications that were designated as geographic gTLDs. Some gTLDs, including geographic gTLDs, are IDNs (“internationalized domain names”), such as 广东 (Guangdong), москва (Moscow) and ابوظبي (Abu Dhabi).
Many of these geographic gTLDs will be quite familiar to the general public, including:
Some others, however, may not be immediately recognized by the geographically-challenged among us, such as .bayern, .cymru, .nrw and .vlaanderen.
There were 68 applications that were designated as community gTLDs, that is, gTLDs that are intended to operate for the benefit of a clearly defined and established community with a restricted population. Several of those may meet with an objection that the applicant is not supported by a significant portion of the community that the applicant claims to represent, including:
- .art (the “Arts community”);
- .gay (the “Gay Community”);
- .kids (the “global kids community”);
- .music (“a domain that serves artists, songwriters and music professionals; promotes music, and nurtures the art … all for the love of music”)
- .radio (“The European Broadcasting Union … is applying … on behalf of the global Radio community”)
- .shop (“the community who are business entities or organizations that deploy commercial activities in an online or offline environment, or provide information in relation thereto over the internet”)
Notably, however, an objection may only be filed by an established institution that can show that it is associated with the defined community.
If there are multiple qualified applicants for the same community .gTLD, ICANN will evaluate each applicant to determine if it fulfills certain community-oriented criteria. If only one scores enough points (14 out of a possible 16), the other applications will be denied. If more than one meets the criteria and they cannot reach agreement among themselves, an auction will determine which applicant will operate the registry.
There were numerous gTLDs where more than one organization filed an application, including:
- .app (13)
- .home (11)
- .inc (11)
- .art (10)
- .blog (9)
- .book (9)
- .llc (9)
- .shop (9)
- .design (8)
- .cloud (7)
- .hotel (7)
- .love (7)
- .ltd (7)
- .mail (7)
- .news (7)
- .store (7)
- .web (7)
- .cpa (6)
- .gmbh (6)
- .law (6)
- .online (6)
- .tech (6)
- .vip (6)
If none of these applications is considered to be a community gTLD and there are multiple qualified applicants, unless the various applicants can reach a voluntary resolution, the operator of the .gTLD will be decided by an auction.
Applicants can now withdraw their applications and receive a 70% refund of the $185,000 filing fee. Thus, applicants who filed purely for defensive reasons and are now satisfied that there are no other applicants for a particular .gtld may yet withdraw their applications.
An initial substantive round of evaluations of the remaining gTLD applications will take place next, to evaluate matters such as whether any of the applied-for strings is too similar to another, whether an application meets all technical requirements, whether the applicant has the necessary technical, operational and financial resources to operate a registry and whether a background check of the principals associated with an applicant raises any personal issues, such as a criminal history, a history of cybersquatting or a lack of general business diligence.
Anyone who wishes to submit comments to ICANN on points that they believe should be considering during the evaluation process has sixty days from “Reveal Day” in which to do so. In addition, parties that wish to object to any of the specific applications will have approximately seven months from the Reveal Date (the specific date has not yet been posted) to do so.
Trademark owners and others who may be affected by any of the posted .gTLD applications should carefully review their options.