As we reported earlier
, ICANN has launched the roll-out of new generic top-level domains (gTLDs). (Top-level domains are the letters that appear after the “dot” in a domain name. Current gTLDs include .com, .gov, .org, and .net.) For a limited time, ICANN will allow companies (and individuals) that meet certain requirements to create their own gTLD and become the registry operator for that domain.
The first deadline in ICANN’s ambitious gTLDs roll-out has hit a glitch. On April 12, ICANN announced that the deadline for applications would be extended from April 12 to April 20. The extension was due to a glitch in ICANN’s TLD application system (TAS) which allowed some users to view other users’ usernames and filenames (although not the actual files). TAS is temporarily down until April 17, when it will reopen, and is set to close for good on April 20.
So far, it appears that the other dates will not be affected by this delay, although ICANN will now have a shorter processing time before the next deadline. On May 1, what ICANN has dubbed “Reveal Day,” ICANN will publicly post all applied-for TLD character strings, and who applied for each. See http://newgtlds.icann.org/en/program-status/application-results
. The results may be surprising, and are expected to be a mix of recognizable brands and generic words. While ICANN has stated it will only approve up to 1,000 TLDs, observers predict as many as 1,500 applications. While many prominent brand owners have kept their intentions silent, others like Canon, Deloitte, Hitachi, Motorola and Unicef have announced their intentions to apply for a .BRAND TLD. In contrast, many non-brand owners have announced ambitious and sometimes competing plans to apply for gTLDs, including many for hobbies, cultures, goods, services, and geographic locations.
For those who have applied for a TLD, “Reveal Day” may provide some insight into whether the applied-for TLD is likely to be subject to a string contention evaluation by ICANN or an objection by another applicant. Depending upon what is revealed, it may be an opportunity to forge early attempts at self-resolution of conflicts, which is ICANN’s preferred methodology to adjudicate conflicting strings.
For those who have not applied, but may be concerned about the effect the new TLD regime will have on brand protection strategies, May 1 marks the opening of two defensive avenues to contest new TLDs. First, the official comment period opens up, allowing anyone to submit comments to ICANN’s independent evaluation panels regarding an applied-for TLD. This period closes June 30. Second, the formal objection period opens up for approximately seven months. Objections can be made based on one of four grounds (i) string confusion, (ii) legal rights objection, (iii) community objection, or (iv) limited public interest objection. See http://newgtlds.icann.org/en/announcements-and-media/announcement-23jan12-en
. While objectors must pay a fee for each objection lodged, the legal rights objection ground is intended to allow brand owners the opportunity to formally object to TLDs perceived to infringe on their registered or unregistered trademark rights, and may therefore be a valuable tool.
While it will take many months before the first TLDs are actually delegated (in many cases, delegation may be over a year away), Reveal Day marks an important step in ICANN’s process. Given the years of discussion, strategy, and speculation as to ICANN’s planned TLD expansion, seeing the list of potential TLDs should contextualize some of the hopes and concerns about this coming new frontier of Internet domains.
(Loeb & Loeb broadcast a webinar on ICANN’s new gTLDs roll-out. A recording of the presentation and related materials can be found here