Today, ICANN, the Internet’s domain name registration watch dog, will publish a listing of nearly 1,900 new generic Top-Level Domains (“gTLDs”) that may be approved for use as early as March 2013. We previously wrote about ICANN’s expansion program and suggested safeguards that companies could implement to protect themselves.
The Domain Name System helps PC users to navigate the Internet. Every domain name ends with a top level domain (“TLD”), such as .com, .net, .biz and others. The Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (“IANA”) maintains a complete listing of approved domain names. The new program expands the domain name sysyem (“DNS”) already in use and well-known, by allowing any entity to apply for a new gTLD.
As we discussed, this expansion will change the Internet forever. It will also pose new potential risks for trademark owners, who already face a myriad of threats from cyberspace. These newly proposed gTLDs are by no means set in stone. An informed objector may be able to stop an application. However, time is of the essence as the opportunity to properly object or comment is limited.
As this dramatic expansion of gTLDs goes forward, any organization, whether or not it applied for a new gTLD, should review this listing with the assistance of knowledgable counsel and determine whether action is needed to protect itself.
Gibbons will continue to monitor developments in this area and provide counsel on the impact of gTLDs on the Internet and their intersection with trademark law, among other areas.