The Current System

All domain names end with a Top-Level Domain (TLD) that consists of two or more letters to the right of the dot. One type of TLD is called a “generic” TLD (gTLD), such as .com. The portion to the left of the dot is called a second-level domain name. gTLDs are often referred to as “strings” or “extensions.”

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The Opportunity

On June 20, 2011, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers(ICANN) approved a plan to increase dramatically the number of gTLDs from the current 22, to a potentially unlimited number of gTLDs in any language and script (for example, Arabic or Chinese). As a result, a company may now consider registering its brand, or nearly any other term, as a new gTLD.

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It has been noted that the new gTLDs may change the way people find information on the Internet and how businesses structure their online presence, but exactly how remains unclear. ICANN’s president summed up the undefined potential of the new gTLD roll-out best when he said,“ICANN has opened the Internet's naming system to unleash the global human imagination.” But a former chair of ICANN's board has been quoted as stating that the new naming system is unnecessary. Although time will tell the value of the new naming system, important decisions will need to be made over the next few months if a company wishes to take part in the new gTLD application process.

Canon, the well-known camera maker, has announced its interest in a .canon gTLD. One example that hints at the creative potential of this new naming system is the use of .canon in connection with the issuance of second-level domains to Canon camera owners. By embedding a chip in the cameras that corresponds to a unique owner ID, for example, photos could be automatically uploaded to a personal website at [yourname].canon. The question now is whether companies can develop marketing plans to support the use of a new gTLD to justify the time and expense of the process.

New gTLD - Frequently Asked Questions   Is applying for a new gTLD the same as buying a domain? No. An applicant for a new gTLD is applying to operate a new registry. All applications will be subject to a multi-stage evaluation to determine technical and operational capabilities.

Who can apply? Any established organization that can demonstrate the operational, technical and financial capability to run a registry.

Can I apply for any gTLD? Except for a few limitations, anything could be registered as a new gTLD. There is no requirement to own a trademark registration.

When can I apply? Between January 12 − April 12, 2012. The first 500 applications will be reviewed. No timeframe has been provided for any second batch review or application window.

How long will the process take? The shortest evaluation process is expected to take at least nine months to complete.    What will it cost? $185,000 fee per gTLD, plus $6,250 per quarter (if gTLD is granted). Additional fees may apply. An applicant is also expected to partner with a registry operator who can provide technological assistance, at an additional cost.

Can I simply reserve a gTLD? The application process requires applicants to provide a detailed plan for the operation of the gTLD. Owners of the gTLD can, however, refuse to issue second level domain names (and keep the registry for themselves).

Are there any Rights Protection Mechanisms? Yes. Brand owners will have the opportunity to object to the gTLD string prior to (as well as after) delegation. Further, second-level domains will be subject to ICANN’s Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy and a new Uniform Rapid Suspension system. It is also anticipated that a central trademark clearinghouse will be in place for registries to conduct searches against registered marks.