domain-name-http- www.jpgSan Diego – Recently, ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) announced a new plan to dramatically increase the number of generic top-level domain names, or GTLD’s, by the end of 2012.  With the expansion of possibly hundreds of additional GTLD’s, this could mean a deluge of opportunities cybersquatters and problems for trademark holders.

Internet addresses will now have a completely different look with domain names ranging from broad terms such as .auto to more specific ones like .canon.  What this means for trademark owners is that they will have new opportunities to reinforce their brand.  However, with those new opportunities come more expenses and challenges with protecting and defending the trademarks at issue.

ICANN foresees these issues with the expanded GTLD database and is working toward solutions.  For example, it is utilizing a trademark clearinghouse to track registered domain names and will rapidly take down any domain names that are found to be infringing trademarks.  ICANN expects to see thousands of domain applications for .eco, .green, .berlin, and .paris, among many others.  Its new system will be able to accommodate names written in native scripts like those from Asia.

The fees associated with registering these new domains are quite costly, to say the least. Applicants who want to operate new, top-level domains from January 12, 2012 to April 12, 2012 can expect an application fee of $185,000 and an annual fee of $25,000.   However, many businesses looking to protect their valuable trademarks may be compelled to set up a registry of their own to thwart cyber squatters.  In some instances, the rights to a top-level domain registry may be decided through an auction, which could increase costs to businesses even more.

For larger companies with deep pockets, the opportunities outweigh the costs.  Companies that want their brand names in the public eye as much as possible will be able to get more of a brand-name look on their web addresses.