Following on from the proposed significant expansion in the number of new generic Top Level Domains (gTLDs) ICANN launched the Trademark Clearinghouse (TMCH) on March 26. This is a central database which will provide trademark owners and licensees with added protection from cybersquatting and online infringement.

The TMCH allows for trademark registration for periods of either 3, 5 or 7 years and the cost per year will be dependent on the number of trademarks registered and the length of registration. In order to be eligible for registration in the TMCH, trademarks must be either registered in a national or regional registry, validated by a court proceeding "at the national level," or protected by statute or treaty. Proof of use must also be submitted for all registered trademarks. Trademark owners and licensees will be able to register up to 50 variations on their marks in the TMCH, provided that those variations had previously been the subject of successful litigation or UDRP arbitration due to abuse by third parties.

Once registered with the TMCH, the trademark owner will receive a notification if a third party registers a new gTLD for an identical trademark within a 60-day Trademark Claims period following Sunrise Registration. This will enable owners to take prompt action against potential infringers. However, owners should be aware that if an agent carries out the registration for them it will be the agent, and not the owner, who will receive this important notification.