Generic top level domain names – an update

At present, there are 22 generic Top Level Domain names (gTLDs) including .com, .org and .net.  However, with ICANN’s new gTLD application process, there are now unlimited numbers of possible gTLDs which can be registered.  Companies and organisations have been applying for gTLDs of their own design and the full list of the 1,930 applications received can be found on the ICANN website.

Google was one of the largest applicants, submitting 101 gTLD applications (paying $18 million in filing fees alone), along with Amazon which filed 76 of its own applications (paying approximately $14 million in filing fees).

There were 84 applications designated as “community-based”  gTLDs, for example, .CPA, .ECO, .GAY, .ISLAM, .SPORT, and 66 applications designated as geographic name gTLDs, including .BRUSSELS, .KYOTO, .RIO, .MIAMI, and .AMSTERDAM.  There were of course also applications for some of the most famous brands, for example, .LOREAL, .MCDONALDS, .NIKE, and .SONY.

116 applications were for domains in languages other than English, notably Arabic and Chinese.  Applicants from North America applied for the most domains (911), followed by Europe (675), Asia Pacific (303), Latin America and the Caribbean (24) and Africa (17). 

Interestingly, 230 domains were applied for by more than one applicant, such as .APP, for which thirteen applications were made, and .LLC, for which nine applications were received. 

There is currently a formal evaluation and objection period ongoing, which is intended to run until about mid-January 2013. This will include various evaluation panels of ICANN conducting “string reviews” and “applicant reviews”.  String reviews focus on whether a gTLD string is too similar to another gTLD, whether it meets the technical requirements and whether it is a geographic name.  Applicant reviews focus on reviewing the applicant’s organisation to check whether it has demonstrated the appropriate technical, operational and financial capabilities to run a registry.

During this time brand owners can also formally object to a gTLD application.  Grounds for objection include “string confusion” objections, which arise when more than one party has applied for a gTLD which is the same or could be confused with another, or on the basis that the domain is identical or similar to a registered or unregistered trade mark.  It is estimated that the cost of raising an objection will be in the region of US$20,000 to US$33,000, which includes the filing fee, arbitration fee and legal services.

With respect to applications for the same gTLD name, ICANN is looking to the parties to reach some form of agreement before the end of the initial evaluation period, but it will step in to mediate if necessary. The last recourse would be an auction for the disputed names.

An application which passes the initial evaluation and faces no objections will be eligible to proceed to pre-delegation and eventually the string will be live and reachable on the Internet as a gTLD.

If you are concerned by any of the domains listed, please contact Lucy Walker or Lisa King for further advice.