Brand Owners Prepare! ICANN Approves Seismic Shift of Internet Proportions by Expanding Generic Top-Level Domains

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The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) officially approved its long-germinating program to dramatically expand the number of generic top-level domain names (gTLDs). The program has the potential to add countless new names to the twenty-one (21) currently available top-level domains (like .COM and .NET) by permitting individuals and companies to apply to serve as registries for a virtually unlimited list of new gTLDs such as .BOOKS, .BERLIN or .BRAND, just to name a few.

In view of this unprecedented expansion of Internet real estate, brand owners will need to ensure that their trademark rights are protected in each new gTLD. Moreover, brand owners may need to consider stepping up their trademark enforcement and monitoring practices to respond to the exponential growth of second-level domains that can be used for counterfeiting and other nefarious activities. Finally, brand owners should consider whether to set up a .BRAND registry of their own (not a cheap undertaking – initial applications alone will cost well in excess of six figures, and there will be considerable ongoing operational costs) or otherwise participate in the new gTLD process.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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