ICANN has approved the .XXX top level domain ("TLD") which is intended specifically for members of the adult entertainment industry. The Sunrise stages for launch commenced on 7 September 2011 and are scheduled to close on 28 October 2011.

During the Sunrise A stage, members of the adult entertainment industry may apply to register .XXX domain names on the basis of their trade mark rights.

The Sunrise B stage provides trade mark owners operating outside the adult industry to reserve names corresponding to their registered trade mark. Sunrise B applications operate to permanently block registration from use by third parties in the .XXX domain. To be eligible in this phrase, a trade mark owner must have a registration for its mark prior to 1 September 2011.

Trade mark owners may also apply when the .XXX space opens to the general public on 6 December 2011. Domain names will be available from this date on a first come, first served basis.

Generic (.brand) top level domains

Applications for new generic top level domais (gTLDs) will be accepted from 12 January 2012 to 12 April 2012. The new domains are planned to go live from early 2013 once pre delegation testing is complete. The top level domain (TLD’s) will allow organisations, companies and industries to use key words (describing their service, product or activities) including trade marks as domain name extensions.

The anticipated advantages of registering your own TLD are:

  • obtaining a short memorable domain name
  • everything to the left of the dot is available for use and registration by your company;
  • potentially improved advertising and ranking on search engines; new creative marketing opportunities; and
  • improved security.

In addition to having a legitimate claim to the name, a company which applies for a new TLD is in effect applying to create and operate a Registry business. It will be required to employ the appropriate technical and operational expertise to run a Registry. As a result, the application process is extensive and expensive. The application fee alone is at $185,000.00, and a successful applicant is required to commit to a 10 year Registry Agreement.

Given the cost and stringent criteria it is unlikely that cybersquatters acting as a new TLD will be an issue. However, whether or not a trade mark owner registers a TLD, vigilance will be needed to enforce their trade mark rights when the new TLD’s are launched. Companies should consider registering their key brands in priority TLDs owned by third parties and increasing their watching services by monitoring new TLDs.