As we reported in the Fall 2008 issue of Expect Focus, the Board of Directors of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) first approved the concept of expanding the system for registering a generic top-level domain (gTLD) in June of that year. On June 20, 2011, ICANN finally approved a new plan to implement the drastically expanded gTLD registration program.  

The current domain name system includes 22 gTLDs, and most U.S. companies already own domain name registrations that end in .com, .net, .org, .info, .biz, .mobi and/or .us. The new gTLD registration system will allow the registration of gTLDs in any language or script, limited only by registrant creativity. For example, the expanded system will accommodate the addition of company names, such as Ford, IBM, Chase; trademarks, such as GATORADE, HP, DOLBY; city and state names, whether or not abbreviated, such as NYC, LA, Wisconsin, WI, London, Berlin; and names of target markets or communities, such as finance, insurance, reinsurance, money, savings, retirement, investments, travel, books.  

The initial 90-day application period for registration under the expanded gTLD registration program will run from January 12, 2012 to April 12, 2012. The application fee will be approximately $185,000 (additional fees may be required during the application evaluation process), and the annual fee will be approximately $25,000. ICANN anticipates the evaluation process for each application will take between 9 and 20 months.  

This expanded gTLD registration program will dramatically increase the number of available domain names. Therefore, businesses, governmental entities, associations, educational institutions, individuals and others should consider not only whether to participate in the new expanded gTLD registration program, but also, whether to implement additional measures to effectively monitor the unauthorized uses of their trademarks in order to combat trademark infringement and cybersquatting.