On June 20, 2011, ICANN approved a plan to increase the number of Internet domain suffixes (“gTLDs”, e.g. .com) from the current number of 22 to an unlimited number. This expansion of the number of possible domain names is significant and opened up the possibility of registering almost any word in any language (and alphabet) as a gTLD.
ICANN announced on June 13, 2012 that it had received a total of 1,930 new gTLD applications (at a fee of $175,000 per application). Of these applications, 66 are geographic name applications and 116 are applications for Internationalized Domain Names (IDNs) for strings in scripts such as Arabic, Chinese and Cyrillic. Applications were received from 60 countries and territories. Many proposed gTLDs corresponded with brand names (e.g. .google, .yahoo, .bloomingdales), while others were more generic (e.g. .website, .toys, .sport). The list of new gTLDs and their respective applicants may be viewed here. Some of the interesting domains applied for include “adult”, “apple”, “attorney”, “cancerresearch”, “church”, “democrat” & “republican”, “hgtv”, “ooo”, “shopping” and “wiki”.
From June 13, 2012 to January 13, 2013, third parties have the opportunity to file formal objections with ICANN as regards any of these proposed applications, subsequent to which ICANN will approve or deny such applications. There are four grounds on which an objection may be filed:
- String Confusion
An existing top-level domain name (TLD) operator or a gTLD applicant in the same application round may file this form of objection on the basis that an applied-for gTLD is confusingly similar to an existing top-level domain name or to another applied-for gTLD.
- Legal Rights
A rights holder may file this form of objection on the basis that an applied-for gTLD string violates the legal rights (to either registered or unregistered trade-marks) of the objecting party as a rights holder.
- Limited Public Interest
Anyone may file this form of objection on the basis that an applied-for gTLD string goes against generally accepted and recognized legal norms of morality and public order. This form of objection is subject to a “quick look” review by ICANN to filter out frivolous or abusive objections.
An established institution associated with a clearly defined community may file this form of objection on the basis that the registration of an applied-for gTLD string will cause a significant detriment to the rights or interests of the community.
Applicants will be given an opportunity to respond to any objections filed against them, subsequent to January 13, 2013. New gTLDs are expected to be rolled out in early 2013.