The Internet is about to get bigger and more complicated. Are you ready for Domain Name Reveal Day?
On May 1, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) will post details of applications for generic Top Level Domains (gTLDs)—a new type of domain name that will open lots of new marketing opportunities, and increasing opportunity for litigation. Under the new system, you could apply to own dot-hockey, dot-themepark, dot-prescriptiondrugs, or any other top-level name worth ICAAN's $185,000 fee.
At that price, these new top-level domains are not for everyone. But many applicants are planning to make money not by monopolizing these new names, but by starting their own names registry—that is, relicensing subdomain names to other users. So if someone registers dot-fish, you could license from them the right to the URLs halifax.fish, organic.fish, deepseaguide.fish, tuna.fish, or any other variations that fit your product line and branding.
On May 1 you can find out who has applied to own top-level keywords in your industry. Then you can decide if there are any you want to deal with, or any you'd like to oppose.
John McKeown, an intellectual property lawyer with Cassels Brock & Blackwell LLP, says companies "must be vigilant," as the new domain names may create branding problems for some firms. "Imagine if an application has been registered for .coffee or .icecream," he said. "This could create havoc for companies best known for selling these products."
McKeown offers this advice to brand owners:
a. Monitor the marketplace and closely follow the activities of competitors, as there may be situations where the use of a new gTLD can give you a competitive advantage.
b. Monitor the applications for new gTLDs and consider initiating dispute-resolution procedures if you think your legal rights are being infringed. Protests can be registered anytime after May 1.
"Many companies will be unhappy with the new domain names, and I believe we'll see lots of oppositions to the proposed names," says Mr. McKeown.
Previously, ICANN has limited top-level domain names websites to 22 options, including dot-com, dot-info and dot-org, as well as country-specific domain names such as dot-uk or dot-ca.