On June 20, 2011, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (“ICANN”) approved a new policy that would allow anyone to apply for a new generic Top Level Domain (gTLD). Currently, there are 22 gTLDs, like .com, .org, .net and others. Soon, there may be hundreds. The application period will last from January 12, 2012 through April 12, 2012.
Applications can be made by any business or organization. As an owner of the new gTLD, the applicant will be able to set rules regarding secondary level registrations, and can choose to open the domain to the public or limit it to intra-company use.
In the press release, ICANN’s Peter Dengate Thrush, Chairman of the Board of Directors, was quoted as saying “We have provided a platform for the next generation of creativity and inspiration.” http://www.icann.org/en/announcements/announcement-20jun11-en.htm
This “platform”, however, comes at a high cost. The evaluation fee is estimated at $185,000 per application. Additional fees may apply. Ongoing annual fee is projected to be $20,000. The exorbitant fees will undoubtedly deter many fortune seekers from profiting the way some were able to by registering popular domain names and then offering them for sale. However, such fees will deter small businesses or organizations as well.
The application evaluation process is designed to weed out the cyber squatters. The process will begin once the application acceptance window is closed. An application will need to pass the Administrative Check (2 months), Initial Evaluation (5 months), Pre-delegation (2 months) without any objections or concerns. If there are none, a new gTLD will be registered in nine months. In other cases, it may take up to 20 months to complete.
Brand owners need to be on the lookout for potential trademark infringement if the application is made for the same or confusingly similar name as their brand name. ICANN will publish all applications once the submission window is closed. Then is the time for trademark owners to review submitted applications and file a “legal rights” objection with one of the independent Dispute Resolutions Service Providers within the time period allocated by ICANN. Since ICANN will not send out any notifications, it is the brand owners’ responsibility to monitor the process and to timely file objections. Guidelines, deadlines and other useful information about the process can be found in the Applicant Guidebook, found here: http://www.icann.org/en/topics/new-gtlds/draft-rfp-clean-12nov10-en.pdf.
Additional information about the new gTLD policy and application procedures will be coming in the next six months. However, those interested in acquiring a new gTLD should already start preparing their applications.