In an earlier post on the Whiteboard, we reported a proposal made at the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN, the body that operates the internet domain name system) called the New gTLD program, which would substantially expand the number of general Top-Level Domains (gTLDs) from the current 22, which includes such familiar domains as .com, .org and .net.  This would potentially allow entities to create such domain names as <empire.newyork>, <hotstuff.porn> or <bornthisway.ladygaga>.

On 20 June 2011, the ICANN board voted overwhelmingly in favour of implementing the new gTLD program.  After the vote, Rod Beckstrom, the CEO and president of ICANN said

"ICANN has opened the Internet's naming system to unleash the global human imagination. Today's decision respects the rights of groups to create new Top Level Domains in any language or script. We hope this allows the domain name system to better serve all of mankind."

Applications for new gTLDs will be accepted from 12 January 2012 to 12 April 2012. The fee for application is estimated at US$185,000, with a US$5,000 deposit.

Prior to that date, brand owners may wish to consider how to protect their brand rights in the event that a third party wishes to register their well known brand as a new domain name.  Our previous post outlined a variety of methods brand owners could utilise to protect their rights in this time of change. 

Further information about the new gTLD program and how to take advantage of the program is available at http://www.icann.org/en/topics/new-gtld-program.htm