Over the last few months, many of our clients have asked us about ICANN’s expansion of generic top-level domains (gTLDs), and we thought it would be beneficial to blog about our garnered knowledge.
In the past, entities have had the opportunity to register second level domain names under existing top level domains such as “dot-com,” “dot-net” and “dot-mobi,” resulting in domain names in the commonly accepted format <dlapiper.com>. However, sometime this year private entities will have the opportunity to apply to create and manage completely new generic Top Level Domains (“gTLDs”).
Obtaining and managing a gTLD is not as simple as registering a second level domain name. Rather, by obtaining a gTLD a company would be entering the business of domain name Registry and a large investment in expertise and technology would likely be necessary. As such, when deciding whether to move forward with a gTLD application, close cooperation will be necessary between the Legal, Marketing and IT departments, at a minimum. We also strongly recommend Executive involvement in the decision-making process given the scope of this undertaking.
It is important to note that no trademark rights are required to apply for a particular gTLD. Therefore, while consideration of brand-centric gTLDs such as “dot-dlapiper” is important, it is also critical to consider the opportunities associated with more generic gTLDs such as “dot-lawfirm” or “dot-law,” for example.
Another important consideration is the intended breadth of Registry activities once the gTLD has been delegated. Specifically, if the Company successfully acquires a new gTLD, it must decide whether second level domain registrations will be available to the public at large, to a specific subgroup of the public, or only for internal use.
For example, the “dot-com” and “dot-net” gTLDs are public, so any individual or entity can register a second level domain name under those gTLDs. However, the “dot-museum” and “dot-aero” gTLDs have specific requirements that Registrants must meet before becoming eligible to obtain second level domains (i.e. must be an official museum organization, etc…). In the case of new gTLDs, it will be possible to limit second level registrations even further such that only the proprietor of the gTLD could use second level domain names.
In our next post, we will lay out the key aspects of the application procedure, as well as a discussion of the rights protection mechanisms that have been put in place to protect intellectual property from third-party infringement.