View from the Top

New Internet domains alter dynamics for protecting, promoting your business online

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With the introduction of new Generic Top Level Domains (GTLDs)--from ".solutions" to ".reviews"--alert companies can benefit from new opportunities to promote their brands, while others potentially will face the challenge of deflecting allegations published on domains established by disgruntled employees or competitors.

By Scott Tschetter

Anyone who has ever tried to create a new website has likely experienced the difficulty of finding a unique web address that has not already been taken. You have to practically make up a new word (even the made-up words in your favorite Dr. Seuss book are already taken!).  Everyone is familiar with the handful of Generic Top Level Domains (GTLDs) such as .com, .net, and .org. Now, after many years of deliberation, hundreds of new GTLDs are being introduced to the World Wide Web.  New domains such as .plumbing, .food, and .photography are now available, and hundreds more will be introduced over the coming months. This is big news and big business for registrars like godaddy.com, which process the registration of new domain names.

Every company should be aware of the new GTLDs as it pertains to its brand names and target markets.  Web sites are first come, first served. While I’m sure Delta Faucets would love to have delta.com, that website was registered first by Delta Airlines. And, while all of the pharmaceutical companies who make remedies for indigestion would like to use “heartburn.com” in a marketing campaign, that domain was grabbed by GSK to advertise Tums. Sometimes, timing is everything.

To address concerns surrounding trademarks, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) set up a global Trademark Clearing House (www.trademark-clearinghouse.com/). For a $175 application fee, trademark owners can submit their claims for inclusion in the database.

Registration does not protect the owner from their trademark being used in a new domain name. However, it does provide notification to the trademark owner anytime the owner’s trademark is submitted as a new domain name. For example, Motorola will be notified, if someone tries to register “motorola.food” or “motorola.reviews” domains. 

Speaking of the “.reviews” GTLD, there are several new GTLDs that should raise concern. Consider the damage that will be done to your brand or company name if a disgruntled employee registers “<yourbrandname>.sucks” or “<yourbrandname>.reviews” and then hosts a forum for complaints and rants.  The “.reviews” domain will go live on June 4—three weeks from today—while the “.sucks” domain has no announced launch date yet. Interestingly, in March, Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) wrote a letter asking ICANN to withdraw the proposed “.sucks” domain.  It remains to be seen if it goes live or not.

While it is cost prohibitive to register your brand name(s) for every new GTLD (there are more than 900), every company should QUICKLY submit their trademarks to the Trademark Clearing House and register their important names with the “.reviews” domain. It would also be wise to follow closely the resolution of the “.sucks” controversy. 

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