ICAAN’s new gTLD program, which includes launching new gTLDs such as ‘.accountant’ or ‘.health’, will have a significant impact on the way companies formulate brand management strategies going forward. How can companies pre-empt and utilise these upcoming developments in order to best protect their brands?

What’s Happening?

ICAAN, the organisation charged with ensuring the proper regulation of global domain name registrations, is set to introduce new generic top level domains (gTLDs) such as ‘.sports’ and ‘.food’. These new domain options will be extremely attractive to businesses seeking to establish a strong online presence and either build a new brand or reinforce an existing one. But with this new gTLD program comes the increased risk of cybersquatting. In an attempt to reduce the occurrences of cybersquatting, ICAAN is introducing several support services which will complement the new gTLDs.

Trademark Clearinghouse

Chief among these support services is the Trademark Clearinghouse, a global repository for trade marks which will validate trade mark information and maintain verified records of all trade marks registered with it. By registering trade marks with the Trademark Clearinghouse, businesses will be able to avail of the Trademark Claims and Sunrise services. The Trademark Claims service will notify trade mark owners of any registration that infringes their registered rights. The Sunrise service will grant trade mark owners a priority in terms of registration for new identical gTLDs. Additionally, in an attempt to limit typosquatting, a new Uniform Rapid Suspension (URS) system will operate alongside the established dispute resolution system in order to allow for efficient challenges to gTLDs which are registered in bad faith.

Brand Protection Strategies

When the gTLD program is fully operational it will undoubtedly form a significant part of a comprehensive brand management strategy. If any new gTLDs are relevant to a business, it would be prudent for that business to register their marks with the Trademark Clearinghouse in order to avail of the advantages of priority and notification. And with approximately 1,900 new gTLD applications already made, it is clear that businesses will have to consider the importance of this new system in terms of strategy formulation.

With the increasing need for companies to manage and protect their online presence, the gTLD program may cause brand management issues and disputes over the newly available domain names. The Trademark Clearinghouse and Trademark Claims service could prove invaluable to brand managers in addressing and managing such rights as such services will offer a centralised platform for protecting against cybersquatting, as well as assisting in the uniform execution of global brand management strategies.