ICANN Starts gTLD programme

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the international authority over top level web domains, has started accepting applications for new generic Top-Level Domains (gTLDs) from Thursday, January 12, 2012.

The move is seen as opening up of new domain extensions for brands, organisations and services apart from the already existing 22 general use domain extensions like .com, .org or .net.
Brands and organisations can submit their applications till March 29 and the closing date has been fixed as April 12, 2012.

The new TLDs will make domains like .google, .apple, .mumbai etc a reality by early 2013 but for a cost. ICANN would be charging an evaluation fee of $185,000 for conducting the due diligence before assigning the domain names. The annual fee for the gTLDs will be $25000.

So definitely it's a costly affair but big multinational companies will be ready to shell out any amount for specific domain names like .brand or .whatever.

However, there are widespread concerns about the efficacy of the whole process of gTLDs and fears about the domain names reaching the hands of cyber squatters.

Some of the general concerns relating to the new gTLDs are:

Multiple claims for same domain name

There is a chance of two different organisations or the different wings of the same organisation applying for the same domain name.

According to the guide book of the ICCAN on gTLDs, if two organisations apply for the same domain name, it would be awarded on a first-come, first-served basis with the priority of it going to the organisation which completes the evaluation process first.

However, social service organisations would be given priority in the evaluation process over specific brands and organisations

Trademark violations

All the organisations have to go through the evaluation process irrespective of whether they already own a trademark or not. ICANN would be looking at the existing trademarks and even the confusing names related to a particular brand around the world before assigning a domain name.

The compulsion on the part of the established brands to protect their domain names may lead to defensive buying of the domain names which might result in organisations shelling out any amount of money to buy the brand domain name.

No assurance that the brand name will be left alone if not applied for

If a particular brand holder is not applying for the domain name, there will not be any guarantee that other organisations won't be given that domain name.

In case of multiple claims on a particular trademark from different sectors, it would be the applicant's responsibility to prove his or her right to that particular trademark rights.

No guarantee on getting the .Brand

If there are multiple applicants for the same brand domain, as the case with many generic domain names, ICANN would be giving an opportunity to settle the dispute between the claimants.

If the issue is not solved, it would be going for auction.

Though there are no doubts about the fact that the gTLDs would be opening a new vista to the internet world, the opponents of the new system do not see nothing more than chaos and more business for lawyers specialised in the trademark rights.