Most U.S. companies already own domain name registrations that end in .com,.net, .org, .info, .biz, .mobi and/or .us. The current domain name system includes 21 generic top level domains (gTLDs). In late June 2008, the Board of Directors of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN ) approved a recommendation to expand gTLDs to include just about anything that just about any applicant would like to purchase. For example, the expanded system will accommodate the addition of company names, such as FORD or BANKOFAMERICA; trademarks, such as GATORADE or MATTEL; geographic places, whether or not abbreviated, such as NYC or NEWYORKCITY; and names of target markets or communities, such as FIN ANCE, IN SURANCE, MONEY, RETIREMENT, LAPTOPS, or BOOKS.
The implementation plan for the new gTLD process is expected to be approved in early 2009, with applications for new names becoming available in the second quarter of 2009. ICANN recognizes that some gTLDs could become the subject of disputes, especially because company names, trademarks, and other terms will not be automatically reserved for their owners. Applications will be processed on a first-come, first-served basis. When more than one applicant applies for the same domain name and the applicants are not able to resolve the matter themselves, the domain name may go to auction, with the domain name going to the highest bidder. Also, ICANN reports there will be an independent dispute resolution process whereby third parties with standing may launch objections to applications for new gTLDs, and the Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Procedure (UDRP) will apply to all new gTLDs. The present Internet address system is limited to 37 Roman characters. The expanded system, however, is expected to support local language characters. Therefore, it is important to consider obtaining registration of applied-for strings in not only Roman characters, but in scripts for other languages.
ICANN estimates that the total fee per gTLD applicant will be $185,000. Some speculate that the high application fee will deter cybersquatters, while others insist that one must promptly purchase new gTLDs, or risk losing them to cybersquatters. In other words, trademark owners that do not obtain new gTLDs for their flagship names and marks as a defensive measure may need to pursue cybersquatters at an even greater expense and without the certainty of prevailing. Some trademark owners believe the new system will be extremely burdensome and have publicly criticized ICANN for proposing a plan that essentially forces brand owners to invest in gTLDs so as to prevent their trademarks from being abused and their customers from being confused.