As many of you know, all businesses worldwide are facing the opportunities and perils of a vast expansion of internet domain names. The Solar Industry is on the front row of this new domain name game with a generic top-level domain name all its own - the “.solar” domain name. Companies interested in acquiring a domain name ending in .solar may now register their choices at any participating domain name registrar, such as GoDaddy, enom, European Domain Centre, or Asia Registry. This general availability period opens April 9 and allows registration by anyone worldwide without restriction on a first come, first served basis.
By way of background, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) oversees the internet domain name system. There are two main types of top-level domain names, country domains (ccTLD) and generic domains (gTLD). Each country has its own ccTLD, such as .us for the United States, .de for Germany, or .jp for Japan. Generic top-level domains are word or character strings, such as .com or .org. Until last year, there were only 22 approved gTLDs, but ICANN has now approved over 600 more which are rolling out in the next 12-18 months. Approximately 175 of the approved domains have launched, and you can find a launch list here.
There are many categories of new gTLDs, including city and other geographic regions, such as .nyc and .london; functional words, such as .support and .supply; company names, such as .nikon and .delmonte; and many topical or subject words, such as .fashion and .technology. In addition, ICANN has approved more than 100 so-called internationalized domain names, which are gTLDs in non-Latin character strings, e.g., Arabic, Hindi and Chinese character scripts.
New domains that may be of interest in the renewable energy and green building industries area besides .solar include .build, .builder, .parts, .glass, .international, house, .systems, .contractors, .construction, .consulting, .lighting and .equipment. Other names to look for in the future include .green, .new and .energy (not yet launched). A searchable list of names with established launch periods is here and the master gTLD application list under consideration with status level and details for each approved and prospective domain is here.
The new gTLD applications were accepted from prospective registries (domain overseers), vetted, and awarded to a single registry (in the case of multiple applications). When launch time rolls around, ICANN delegates the name to the internet root zone servers, then a series of registration periods begins. Initially, trademark owners are given a chance to register their qualified trademarks as domain names in the new gTLD during an exclusive registration period called “sunrise.” Then, a period begins for selective registrations, usually based on price, and finally the general public availability registration period starts. In some case, the general public may “preregister” a domain name before the general public availability period starts. “Registration” refers to the act of entering a contract for the selected domain name. “Preregistration” refers to a reservation process by which a domain name is reserved until the registration period opens, but preregistration is not a guarantee that the applicant will eventually register the name. It is simply a priority claim and subject to others who are ahead in the queue.
Domain name registrars are the place to start if you want to register a domain name in one of the new gTLDs. The Stoel Rives Trademark and Branding group can assist with questions about brand protection strategy, trademark and domain name priorities and disputes.