Have you looked into purchasing a new internet domain recently? If so, you may have noticed that there are a plethora of new generic top-level domains (“gTLDs”) to choose from. gTLDs are domain suffixes which appear after the last period in a domain name – such as .com and .net. But those are just the tip of the iceberg. New gTLDs range from .academy to .zone… with some 300 options currently available and more becoming available on a regular basis.
What is ICANN?
gTLDs are created by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (“ICANN”). In 2012, ICANN allowed individuals and companies worldwide to apply for new gTLDs. Three years later, many of these gTLDs are rolling out for the public to purchase and use.
The new gTLDs allow for individuals and businesses alike to add a more descriptive, personal touch to their domain names. Always wanted to be a .ninja? Or a .guru? Now you can be either—or both. Want to make clear that you’re a consultant? Just purchase a .consulting gTLD for your company name. Are you an .engineer? There’s a gTLD for that too. And the music community is eagerly awaiting the availability of its eponymous gTLD, which is currently awaiting ICANN approval.
The new TLDs offer an opportunity for businesses to use domain names to help describe what they do. For example, this firm could choose the domain Lomnitzer.attorney, Lomnitzer.lawyer or Lomnitzer.legal, giving website visitors a pretty good idea of what kind of business we’re in. Will these new gTLDs catch on to the extent that the more “classic” domain gTLDs have? Only time will tell. Regardless, it still may be a good idea for you to consider registering domains with new gTLDs as part of your business plan.
This is particularly true for companies which may not have a lot of brand recognition behind them. Domestically, businesses with trademark and name recognition should still be able to continue to enforce their intellectual property rights in the context of these new domains. Yet why would you want to have to? It may save a lot of trouble and legal expenses down the road to preemptively purchase domains with gTLDs that are relevant to your business. So if you own a company called, for example, Really Great Marketing, you may want to consider purchasing the domain reallygreat.marketing, as well as any other gTLDs that you find relevant or you think your prospects and customers may search for. This will head off legal issues before they arise.
Keep in mind, too, that not all of the new gTLDs originate from the US. And, as you may imagine, other countries have different intellectual property laws than the US. So if you take issue with a gTLD that is based outside of this country, it may be more difficult to enforce your rights. In this situation, prevention may again be the best cure. By registering relevant gTLDs for your business, you may reduce the possibility of dealing with intellectual property rights in an international context.
The domain .sucks requires particular attention. Yes, there really is going to be a .sucks gTLD, and it may already be live by the time you read this. The preregistration period for this registry is closing in a matter of weeks and the domains will soon be available to the public. While these domains are expensive, they’re probably cheaper than fighting a dissatisfied customer who registers yourcompanyname.sucks—not to mention the bad publicity caused by that customer.
Ultimately, the new gTLDs represent a great opportunity for a variety of organizations. Yet they also present the possibility of damage to your brand. Businesses would be wise to develop a strategy for monitoring and dealing with the new gTLDs in order to protect their hard-earned intellectual property rights.
For more information about gTLDs and how to protect your brand identity, contact The Lomnitzer Law Firm located in Boca Raton, FL.