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  • Posted by: Jerome McDonnell on Monday, June 25 2012 03:12 PM | Comments (0)
    Who will win the gTLD battle for .dog?

    The dust has settled from “Reveal Day” where The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) CEO Rod Beckstrom declared, “The Internet is about to change forever.” We find we’re left with more of an indication of the shape the internet might take in the next few years than a solid sense of now having all the answers.

    What was shared is a list of who paid ICANN $185,000 a pop for the opportunity to potentially transform the online landscape. $357 million in application fees later, we also know the words they will use to begin this transformation.

    The window to apply for new generic Top-Level Domain (gTLD) names opened Jan 12, 2012 and closed May 30, 2012. ICANN received 1,930 applications for 1,410 different strings, which would run those approved $25,000 for the annual fee, plus technical costs.

    More than 700 of these applications involved various overlapping strings. While ICANN assures it will thoroughly vet applicants and choose the best for sought-after strings, if ties arise, we could see some of the various 231 applicants become embroiled in bidding wars.

    A few of the hottest strings include:

    • With 13 applications: .app

    • With 11: .home, .inc

    • With 9: .book, .llc, .shop

    • With 8: .music, .movie, .blog, .design

    • With 7: .store, .ltd, .news, .mail, .hotel, .cloud and .love

    There was, perhaps surprisingly, only one application for .beer, but .dog saw three and .pizza four. Strings like .tech and .cpa tied with six and .baby was as popular as .game with five applications. Environmental themes garnered some popularity with four competing for .eco and .green, while two fight for .earth.

    Pontificium Consilium de Communicationibus Socialibus (Pontifical Council for Social Communication) filed for .catholics, which will be a closed register. The only other denomination name we saw applied for was .mormon by IRI Domain Management, LLC. The American Bible Society applied for .bible, dot Faith Limited applied for .faith and .christmas was sought by Uniregistry, Corp. Asia Green IT System applied for .halal, .islam and .persiangulf.

    It’s also interesting to note:

    • Conspicuous by their absence are: Facebook, Twitter, LinkeIn, eBay, the Olympics and The Red Cross. None of these companies appear to have filed for any TLD extensions.

    • Google looks to have filed for 101 strings. Amazon filed for 76. The two could face off over 20 different strings, including .music, .movie and .play.

    • Microsoft filed for 11 TLDs, including its name and .bing, .hotmail, .windows and .xbox. While Apple applied for just .apple.

    • Donuts Inc. applied for the most. It sought 307 gTLD strings such as .art, .blog and .charity, costing the company a whopping $56 million in application fees.

    • Although the ANA (Association of National Advertisers) has been an outspoken critic of ICANN’s initiatice, more than 90 of its 500 members ended up applying for a new TLD. Home Depot, Accenture, Dell, Samsung, Allstate and Capital One, for example, all filed for their own names.

    • GE had to make do with .GEcompany because of the 3-character minimum requirement.

    Instead of processing all applications simultaneously, ICANN will evaluate them in batches of 500, taking approximately six months. Thus it is very possible that some TLDs will be up and running before ICANN has even started reviewing other applications.

    The effect this internet expansion will have on brands, trademark protection strategies and domain name portfolios remains to be seen – but brand owners need to be ready. The good news is the published list offers the chance to identify potential risks and benefits to the internet expansion.

    Brand owners should immediately review the application list to determine if any of the new TLDs consist of or incorporate their trademarks. It’s wise to see what the competition is up to as well. Note if a competitor has applied to own a generic industry term that could leave other brands at an unfair disadvantage.

    Once the list is audited, it is strongly recommended brands be ready to develop a plan to address problematic TLDs. Consider filing objections via public comment (now through August 12, 2012) or legal rights objection (now through January 13, 2013). And be prepared to respond to any objections to applications from competitors.

    Watch the developments of the Trademark Clearinghouse, intended to provide limited protections for trademark owners when second-level registrations within new TLDs are available, closely. Deloitte and IBM were announced as the service providers for implementing and managing the Trademark Clearinghouse, scheduled to open in October 2012. Brands will need to decide if they need to register second-level domains in any of the new TLDs that launch as soon as 2013.

    The key here is vigilance. The Trademark Clearinghouse, as well as the Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP), Uniform Rapid Suspension System (URS) and sunrise periods are there to help. The onus to monitor, however, is on the brands themselves.

    Rod Beckstrom announced that trademarks “…are country specific, domains unique. The two will never match up exactly.” ICANN has admitted it has put aside approximately $120 million form fees collected to cover any future legal costs.

    While we wait and see what the batching/digital archery process brings, we can ponder the following:

    • Will Facebook challenge Amazon’s application for .like?

    • Who will get .cloud? Amazon? Google? Symantec? Or one of the 4 other applicants?

    • Will string confusion objections be filed by .guardian or .theguardian?

    • What about .bank vs. .banque? .vote and .voting? .web vs. .webs vs. .website?

    • When ICANN promised it was expanding the internet landscape, it wasn’t kidding. We potentially have .apartments, .condos, .realestate, .realtor, .realty, .rent, rentals, .villas and .rightathome from which to choose. There’s also .storage

    • Is Kerry Trading Company really looking to own .kerrylogistics or is .logistics what they intended?

    • Is the applicant for .dotAfrica looking to own .africa perchance?

    • What were they thinking? .online, .rodeo, .ketchup, .spreadbetting, .cleaning, .ninja, .ooo, .boo, .RIP, .dot? And did three different companies really file for .sucks?

    The online landscape is set to evolve. A new internet is nigh. .wtf – filed by Donuts, Inc. – indeed.

    Jerome McDonnell is Group Trademark Director for Interbrand.

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  • Posted by: Jerome McDonnell on Wednesday, March 21 2012 03:37 PM | Comments (0)

    As of March 18th, at least 290 users have registered with TAS (Top-level domain Application System), the prerequisite for filing for a new TLD, or a so-called dotbrand URL. Each user is eligible to apply for 50 different extensions—meaning a year from now, we could have 14,500 additional domain name extensions to navigate. Or not.

    A recent study conducted by Vanson Bourne suggested that “almost half of major consumer brands” are set to apply for a dot-brand TLD, and 40% are still considering applying . By the way, that study was commissioned by Afilias, a registry services provider, and was thoughtful enough to include the statement “brands that decide not to apply … risk an indeterminate period of disadvantage against competitors…”. And I bet you didn’t know that “Afilias has more experience in supporting successful applications to ICANN for new TLDs than any other provider”.

    Until ICANN’s “Reveal Day” on May 1st, this list, compiled by .Nxt, indicates that “geographic,” “generic term” and “community” extensions currently outnumber those filed for a dot.Brand. While I have no doubt that many brands are playing their cards close to their chest, and many brand owners will file between now and when TAS registration closes on March 29th, it’s also worth remembering (as Ad Age reports), that brands such as GE and Coca-Cola, along with American Express, Dunkin’, J&J, Kellogg, Kraft, P&G, Toyota, Visa and Walmart are just a few that voiced opposition to the ICANN program. That’s not to say they won’t (feel obliged to) file, but it does make you question how successful an initiative can be if it’s comprised of reluctant participants. Ultimately, the number of TAS registrants is not as significant as how many applicants a) apply correctly/meet the requirements; b) are approved by ICANN; and c) are successful in implementing their new extension(s).

    While ICANN sorts this (and this) out, we can reflect on the words of this gentleman, via Mediapost:

    “The potential impact of this restructuring of digital domains could become one of the essential new organizing principles for our connected lives. It could likely change the way we discover and find things when using search. It might alter the expectation we have for what we will find and where we will go after the click… So here’s the puzzle for us to solve for, my fellow brand owners and marketers -- where is the proper space for a brand in this emerging world of connected places?... Places and spaces connected, identified, organized, and managed within the simplest and most powerful of things: a name.”

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  • Posted by: Jerome McDonnell on Tuesday, December 13 2011 02:02 PM | Comments (0)

    As the January application period fast approaches, ICANN’s expansion of the generic Top Level Domain (gTLD) system continues to draw condemnation.

    At last week’s hearing before the Senate Commerce Committee, the Association of National Advertisers called the endeavor a “reckless experiment” and “fundamentally flawed.” Members of the Committee advised ICANN to slow down the process, pointing out that security recommendations made by the FBI need to be given careful consideration. All this just one day after the head of the FTC said the initiative could prove a “disaster.” Another hearing (held by the House Energy and Commerce Committee) is scheduled for Dec. 14th.

    But lest it seem all doom and gloom, amid the criticism the National Telecommunication and Information Administration reiterated its support, while the Fairwinds Partners-backed CADNA took a proactive stance.

    ICANN today defended its gTLD program as “carefully constructed,” and indicated in a blog post that it has no intention of delaying the implementation of new gTLD’s—the reality is that it’s going to happen, and very soon.

    With one month to go until the application process begins, this is an uncertain time for brands and their owners. While applying for and operating a registry [open or closed] may not be right for everyone, the time for some sort of action is now: What brand owners need to immediately address is how all this will affect their online presence, their digital strategy, and their approach to protecting their brand(s)—for more information on this, download our free white paper, “What’s in a Domain?”

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  • Posted by: Jerome McDonnell on Wednesday, September 28 2011 04:28 PM | Comments (0)

    The ICANN gTLD saga continues. Last Monday the organization released the latest version of the Applicant Guidebook, plus a new website that provides still-complicated details, but in a more accessible manner (including the above video).

    One important change for all potential applicants to note is that March 29, 2012 is now the deadline for registering with the TLD Application System (TAS). Registration is required before the actual application can be submitted (application period remaining 1/12/2012-4/12/2012).

    While ICANN’s other revisions to the guidebook should not affect most brand owners’ plans, notable modifications include a program for the provision of financial assistance to eligible applicants, requirements for applicants to prove they have a “Continuing Operations Instrument” (i.e. financial wherewithal) to maintain the undertaking, and that Interpol has been enlisted to conduct background checks on all applicants.

    With only 101 days to go (and counting), anyone contemplating applying for their own domain extension needs to make a decision now. So, for guidance on the subject, read here. And stay tuned for more. As suspected, ICANN reserves the right to amend the Guidebook again—even after the application period has begun.

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  • Posted by: Jennifer Bassett on Tuesday, September 13 2011 10:40 AM | Comments (0)

    A generic top-level domain (gTLD) refers to the suffix at the end of an IP address, the .com, .net, .edu, .org and other standard extensions at the heart of the online experience. Since the 1990s, a company’s online address has been of critical importance, but securing a domain name for a new venture or brand has proven to be an increasing challenge as the most sought after domain—the dotcom—is often already owned. This has all changed as of June 20, 2011. The board of ICANN (the Internet Corporate for Assigned Names and Numbers) has voted that any word in any language may now be considered for use as a gTLD. Anyone and everyone can now apply for the own uniquely branded URL, though for a very high US $185,000 fee. The question now is whether the dotbrand era is upon us.

    A new white paper by Interbrand experts Paola Norambuena, Jerome McConnell, and Jeff Mancini, explores the pros and cons of a dotbrand URL. While the prospect of owning a domain is an exciting one, the process, the benefits, and the pitfalls demand serious consideration.

    Read more about dotbrand here.

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