By: Laura Levin-Dando
About a year ago, ICANN, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, began accepting applications for new domain name suffixes, specifically generic top-level domains, or gTLD’s. At $185,000 per application, groups have applied to create new website suffixes beyond the standard “.com” or “.net”; some of the applications include “.design,” “.website,” and “.rip.” After a number of delays to the originally announced date, the full list of more than 1,900 gTLD applications will be publicly released today on “Reveal Day,” June 13, 2012.
Reveal Day is important to the players who have submitted applications, who will soon learn the full list of gTLD’s and respective applicants, which comes with implications such as potential conflicts or bidding wars that may result between applicants vying for the same gTLD. Starting today, there will be a 60-day time period, during which the general public may access and comment on the applications. Additionally, this date will trigger a seven-month “objection period,” during which groups may challenge an application. Entities may object to an application on a variety of grounds, including possible negative ramifications of a gTLD with regard to “legal norms of morality,” or conflicts with existing “rights or other legitimate interests,” such as trademark ownership. Brand owners especially should keep an eye out for applications that “consist of or incorporate [their] registered or unregistered trademarks.” A list of legitimate reasons for objection, as well as guidelines for filing, responding to, and resolving objections can be found here. Moreover, brands should see the list as an opportunity to gain a glimpse into the inner-workings of competitors; in addition to potential trademark disputes, it is possible that Reveal Day applications may reveal general marketing and business strategies of different companies.
This is not just a time for applicants to pay attention to the list of potential gTLD’s, but a time when many other parties’ interests may be affected. In addition to applicants themselves, a list of those who should be particularly conscious of the revealed list of gTLD applications includes investors, trademark owners, intellectual property attorneys, and “anyone that uses the internet.” There is no denying that the introduction of potentially hundreds of new gTLD’s will change the face of the internet- from how companies use it to interact with and present themselves to the public, to the way individuals navigate the web day by day. This dramatic change to the internet landscape is lauded by some as an inevitable progression, a way to promote creativity and competition on an extremely relevant communication and interaction platform. However, there are others who are skeptical, worried that new gTLD’s will make the internet less user-friendly or that smaller businesses who could not afford the initial application fee (much less the annual $25,000 fee to whomever is awarded a gTLD) will be at a disadvantage in the marketplace. Given the many costs and benefits this development will have, it is clear that the way parties conduct business, and the way individuals relate to those businesses on the internet will be facing drastic changes. Businesses, small and large alike, would find that it is in their best interest to create an immediate strategy to determine the impact this will have on their operations, and devise a response plan in order to stay ahead of the curve in an ever-evolving internet-based marketplace.