Like a spider-bitten superhero or Felicity when she got that awful haircut, the Internet is going through some big changes. This is probably not the next animated .gif renaissance or the new Facebook newsfeed, but it’s important nonetheless.
Before we get started, I need to introduce you to an ugly acronym: gTLD. (Don’t fret, other normal people don’t know what it is either.) Not to alarm you, but you’re using one right now – internet suffixes like .com, .org, and .net are technically called “generic top-level domains,” or gTLDs.
The options we have for generic top level domains are about to get a whole lot bigger. The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) will be introducing new gTLDs as early as this June – and will be rolling them out a bunch at a time over 12-18 months.
This is sure to spice things up around the web – the 1900+ applications filed for new gTLDs really run the gamut: .blog, .health, .eco, .web, and yes, .sucks, to name a few.
What’s good about these new gTLDs for my organization?
1. It’s a new way to market yourself!
There will now be more internet ‘real estate’ out there, which is exciting! And you have a chance to get in early. As new gTLDs like .blog are phased in, ICANN has established a Trademark Clearinghouse that will allow you to reserve them in advance.
Let’s say your organization’s website is CantTouchThis.org and you have a trademark registration for “CantTouchThis.” Now, let’s say you happen to have a blog you’re really proud of, or you think some MC Hammer haters are going to try to register “CantTouchThis.sucks.”
As long as you register your trademark “CantTouchThis” with the Clearinghouse ahead of time, then within a 30-day window before the “.sucks” or “.blog” gTLDs are rolled out, you can go ahead and register CantTouchThis.blog or CantTouchThis.sucks before anyone else has a chance to. Eat my dust, haters!
2. There’s some stop-gap mechanisms in place to give you (some) control.
Since the addition of all these new gTLDs will explode the number of domains in play, ICANN wants you to have a fighting chance to keep track of gTLD registrations for the trademarks you have registered with the Clearinghouse.
In addition to the 30 day head start you’ll have to register gTLDs you know you want, there’s another opportunity you should know about. To prevent an ideological enemy or competitor from horning in on your trademark, ICANN has established a Trademark Claims Period of at least 60 days after the public launch of each new gTLD. During that time, if you’ve submitted CantTouchThis to the Clearinghouse but not yet registered, say, “CantTouchThis.sucks” yourself, you’ll be notified of any attempt to register a domain name under that mark — and you can challenge those registrations. Long story short, if you reserve with the Clearinghouse, it’ll be easier to know about and take actions to stop the haters during those two months. After that, you’re on your own to explore commercial domain ‘watch’ services, which have extra costs (but also have the advantage of notifying you of gTLD registrations that are not exact matches to your registered mark, which the Clearinghouse won’t do.)
Speaking of costs…
None of this comes free! Registering a registered mark (e.g. CantTouchThis) with the Trademark Clearinghouse will cost you $150 for one year, $435 for three years, and $725 for five years. This is on top of whatever you’d pay to register the domain, file a trademark application, host your site, etc. Since not all gTLDs will launch at the same time, for that one-, three-, or five-year period, you’ll have access to the benefits (including the 60-day notification period after launch of each one), no matter when a gTLD comes available.
What do I do now?
This is probably a lot to take in at once. And that’s okay – you have time to think more about it since none of this starts until June.
But, in the meantime, if you have a registered mark you can pay to submit your mark to the Trademark Clearinghouse in order to protect your mark and brand, no matter when these new gTLDs become available. You should also keep an eye out on ICANN’s new gTLDs website with regard to timing for the gTLDs you’re interested in.
We also recommend that you talk to your IT Directors, your COO, or whoever at your organization can help you take advantage of and prepare for this new opportunity!
Special thanks to our friends at Trister, Ross, Schadler & Gold, PLLC, for giving us a head’s up about this change. We’ve tried to boil it down to the bare essentials here, but this shouldn’t be taken as legal advice. We’re REALLY not lawyers. So if you want more details, get in touch with Trister, Ross, Schadler & Gold or find some lawyers you trust, and buy them a beer. (Or, I guess, like 100 beers an hour.)