ICANN has just released its draft Applicant Guidebook for generic top level domains (gTLD’s). As reported in our September edition the new gTLD system will enable all corporations, institutions, or organisations to register a corporate name, generic word, or place name, as a top level domain, for example (.toyota, .running, .dublin).

The draft Applicant Guidebook sets out the requirements for gTLD’s and the application process. There will be a fixed application time frame and initial and extended evaluations will be carried out by the administering body. The basic evaluation fee is US$185,000 with the possibility of additional fees being payable or costs incurred if an extended valuation or dispute resolution process is necessary. The basic evaluation consists of a “string” review to check for potential confusion and an “applicant” review to check whether the applicant has the required technical and financial capabilities. Applications can be challenged on the basis of the applicant’s inferior legal rights to the proposed gTLD, that the gTLD applied for is so similar to an existing or pending gTLD that confusion is likely to arise, on grounds of morality or public order, or an established community group may have grounds to challenge a geographical gTLD.

Conflicting legal rights holders who lodge objections will have their complaints administered by the Arbitration and Mediation Center of the World Intellectual Property Organisation. A complaint may be made on the basis that it takes unfair advantage of the distinctive character or reputation of another mark, unjustifiably impairs the character or reputation of that mark, or creates a likelihood of confusion between the marks. The proposed test takes into account a range of factors which will necessarily involve a more complex overall assessment than the simple three stage test under the Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy.

ICANN is currently seeking comments on the proposed Applicant Guidebook which will be finalised in early 2009.