New Generic Top Level Domain Extensions
There are currently 21 generic top-level domain extensions ("gTLDs") (such as, .com, .net, .info, etc.). However, with over a billion current Internet users and an ever-increasing demand for websites, there exists a need for more domain names. To address this, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (“ICANN”) has recently developed guidelines and procedures to allow companies to register new gTLDs. Under this new program, any applicant can establish a new gTLD of any string up to 64 letters, consisting of anything from an abbreviation, to a trademark, or personal name. ICANN is still soliciting public comment and objections in anticipation of developing an implementation plan for this new program. So, applications are unlikely not open until the middle of 2009 at the earliest.
Participation in the new gTLD process is not for everyone, however, as the costs of establishing and maintaining a new gTLD will likely be quite costly. Registration of new gTLDs will consist of very high start up and participation expenses of approximately $500,000 in the first year alone, including an application evaluation fee of $185,000, a $75,000 ICANN annual fee and various other costs such as the cost of legal representation, fees to registry providers, and compliance and insurance costs.
The new program does have its advantages, as it will allow trademark owners and companies who use it to their advantage to more efficiently brand their products and open up an unlimited amount of new domain names for users. However, the program will also be a cause for concern to many trademark owners who now must be extra cautious and vigilant in protecting their marks due to the possibility that third parties may seek to register other companies’ trademarks as gTLD domains. In turn, however, similar to the domain name dispute process already in use, WIPO will administer a process for objecting to new gTLDs available to trademark owners who believe their rights are being infringed upon.