As early as late summer 2013, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the nonprofit entity that oversees domain names, will launch as many as 500 new Generic Top-Level Domain names (gTLDs). A top-level domain name is the last part of an Internet address, after the final “dot.” The most common current top-level domain names are .com, .net and .org. Under the gTLD program, however, ICANN invited applications from individuals, companies and organizations to create many new top-level domains. Some of the proposed gTLDs include .book, .music, .app and .buy.
Many brand owners responded with trepidation to the notion that hundreds of new domains would soon be on the market. They still remember the dot.com land rush of the early 2000s where they had to scramble to secure and defend their brands on the Internet. Would there now be more of that, on a larger scale?
Those expensive trademark battles could be coming back, but ICANN, possibly foreseeing problems, has put in place new Rights Protection Mechanisms (RPMs) designed to resolve disputes related to gTLDs. The Trademark Clearinghouse, for example, allows brand owners to list their brands in a central repository so as to secure domain names on an expedited basis. Registered brand owners will also be notified if possibly infringing domain names are registered.
ICANN will also institute two new means of handling disputes. The Uniform Rapid Suspension System (URS) will give brand owners an expedited process to take down infringing websites. The Post-Delegation Dispute Resolution Procedure (PDDRP) is a new administrative proceeding that will handle allegations of trademark abuse.
Even with these new mechanisms and procedures, the gTLDs could be a trademark nightmare for some brands. In light of what’s at stake, arbitration might be an efficient and cost-effective means of resolving any disputes that are not addressed through ICANN’s procedures.