Do you remember 10 or 15 years ago when domain names were first being grabbed left and right? A better question might be how could anyone forget – it was like the California Gold Rush all over again. Although the situation calmed down after the dot-com bubble burst, it remained in flux until developments like Google AdWords and search engine optimization took hold.
And now, just like the belated but inevitable glut of sequels to a blockbuster movie, we’re seeing a larger wave of new top-level domain names (TLDs) – except these are considered “dot-anything” or “generic” TLDs (gTLDs), since they cover nearly anything after the dot. Nearly 2,000 that have been sought include trademarked names like .google, .apple and .amazon, as well as words like .social, .photos, .sports and even .lol. Hundreds of these gTLDs are becoming a reality, and soon companies will be faced with choosing how to react to them.
Among the front-end protections against the kind of cybersquatting that plagued .com domains is the Trademark Clearinghouse, where trademark owners can register to be made aware if a third party is trying to grab their exact trademarks as gTLDs. Registering at the Clearinghouse also allows trademark holders to obtain gTLDs of interest during special “sunrise” periods occurring prior to gTLDs being made available to the general public.
Of course, the magic question is whether this all turns out to be a big party where everyone is invited, but no one shows up (remember .mobi?). It’s a dilemma, since if your company guesses wrong it could either be out a good chunk of money from too many gTLD registrations that turn out to be irrelevant, or it could lose rights to gTLDs that might become important down the road.
As a starting point, it’s advisable to get a sense of when the various gTLDs will be going live, and this resource from ICANN can be helpful. Beyond that, it’s worth looking into the Trademark Clearinghouse now if you have important registered trademarks to protect. That way, you’re keeping your options open without a significant up-front financial commitment.
Is your company moving forward with obtaining new gTLDs? Let us know why you’re interested at firstname.lastname@example.org.