CATEGORY: New Domains

Who is Alain Pellet, and What’s an Independent Objector? ICANN Formal Objection Review, Part I

One of the most exciting aspects of ICANN’s new gTLD application process is the objections. Looking over the newly released list, you may notice a couple of things: One, there’s going to be a hot debate about who owns a word. Two, there will be a defining decision made regarding brands that encompass generic terms, such as .BLUE being objected by Blue Cross and Blue Shield. And three, there’s a guy named Prof. Alain Pellet objecting to a lot of new gTLDs.

Who is Professor Pellet? Did he kill Mr. Boddy in the library with a candlestick? And, what makes him an Independent Objector? Here’s a run-down of who Pellet is, and his role at ICANN:

Who is Alain Pellet?

He’s a professor of law, a former United Nations International Law president and current member, he’s been on the counsel for a number of governments, and he’s an author of multiple books. (Read: All-round badass.)

What is an independent Objector?

An Independent Objector is the person ICANN selected to represent the public during the formal objection period. Basically, Pellet represents the concerns and ntlds objectionsneeds of the general public, who may not have the funds to submit a formal objection on their own, or have the legal resources to back a formal objection through the dispute process.

According to ICANN, the Independent Objector (IO) must be unaffiliated with any applicant and willing to present public concerns in an unbiased and fair manner. The IO is a third-party presenter in the objection process. The IO, according to the ICANN guidebook, may object to any application he finds “highly objectionable,” that is not already being objected to by another entity, and he must only object to an applicant after a member of the public community has submitted a comment concerning the application, or an argument concerning opposition to an application takes place in the public sphere.

What is a formal objection?

A formal objection is different than the objections people were able to make as comments on ICANN threads. It’s a filed objection against one or more applicants that claims one of four infractions (this info can be found in Module 3 of the ICANN gTLD Guidebook):

  • String Confusion Objection: An applied-for gTLD is too similar to another applied-for, or current, gTLD, and therefore would create confusion among Internet users.
  • Legal Rights Objection: An applied-for gTLD infringes on a registered trademark or brand.
  • Limited Public Interest Objection: An applied-for gTLD infringes on the public’s legal interest.
  • Community Objection: An applied-for gTLD damages a recognized community’s interests.

After a formal objection is filed, the applicant has 30 days to respond. After 30 days, if the applicant does not respond, the objection wins out, and the application is void. If the applicant responds, a expert panel, knowledgeable in whatever area the objection is in, will review the objection and decide an outcome.

Prof. Alain Pellet’s Chosen Objections:

Looking at the objections, you’ll see that the Pellet, acting as the Independent Objector, only objected to applications on the basis of Limited Public Interest Objections or Community Objections, and that is because the IO is limited to those two types of objections. Here’s a list of the new gTLDs Pellet objected to (LP= Limited Public Objection; C= Community Objection):

  • .HEALTH (LP,C), .HEALTHCARE (LP,C), .HOSPITAL (LP, C), .MED (LP,C), .MEDICAL (LP,C)
  • .AMAZON (the proposed Chinese and Arabic script equivalents to .AMAZON, as well) (C)
  • .PATAGONIA (C)
  • .CHARITY (the proposed Chinese script equivalent to .CHARITY, as well) (C)
  • .INDIANS (C)

For a complete list of all objections, click here.

Each objections intends to protect communities and public interests. .AMAZON and .PATAGONIA both represent well-recognized company brands and geographical regions, defined by their culture and inhabitants, so the IO is representing the members of these two communities when objecting to these brands owning the proposed nTLDs.

Similarly, .INDIANS defines two sets of cultures, both indigenous North Americans and inhabitants of India, and so the IO is objecting to the use of this defining term in either too broad or too limited a context, for fear of damaging these communities.

Finally, .CHARITY and the series of medical industry gTLDs represent organizational communities that rely on credibility, trust, and security to relay information, fund-raise, and save lives. In these objections, the IO is asserting that these gTLDs would infringe on the legal and community rights of these two sectors, and that allowing unrestricted or bias control of the registration of these nTLDs would be detrimental to the overall health of the Internet. We’ll have to wait and see if the reviewing board agrees.

Keep in touch to see what happens with these objections as they work through the dispute process, and feel free to check out the ICANN-sponsored Independent Objector webpage, for more information on Alain Pellet and the role of the IO. If you’ve had your eye on any of these new gTLDs, be sure to sign up for our Watcher, and we’ll keep you updated on the nTLDs you’re interested in, through the evaluation and dispute processes.

How to register your trademark in the Trademark Clearinghouse (and why you should)

The Trademark Clearinghouse (TMCH) has opened for business. Queue “Eye of the Tiger,” put on your sweatbands, and start jogging in place, because for all you trademark and brand owners out there, now is the perfect time to register your trademark and start protecting yourself. Take advantage of Early Bird registration and prevent the “oh, crap” moment six months down the line when you realize you forgot to register and Sunrise on one of your favorite nTLDs is about to launch. Here’s a breakdown of the benefits of registration, as well as an overview of pricing and registration options and how to register.

Benefits of Registration

Trademark owners who register their marks in the Clearinghouse gain two out right advantages over trademark owners who don’t:ntld clearinghouse

  1. Sunrise Service: The minimum requirement for participating in the Sunrise periods for any nTLD will be having your registered trademark submitted in the Clearinghouse. Sunrise is the prime opportunity to secure the domain names you want before anyone else, and registering in the Clearinghouse is the only way to participate.
  2. Trademark Claims Service: Arguably the best benefit of registering in the Trademark Clearinghouse is that you’ll be notified when anyone tries to register a domain that contains your trademark in it. Without having to defensively register your trademark in hundreds of new registries, the Clearinghouse allows you to register once, and have your trademark in the database every nTLD registry has to check. When someone tries to register your mark, they’ll be notified that you own it. If they continue, you’ll be notified that they registered the domain and be able to act quickly.

Pricing and Registration Options

The cost of registering one trademark is $150 for one year. The price goes down if you purchase multiple year registrations. For example, it costs $435 to register 3 years, saving $15, and $735 for 5 years, still saving $15. While the $15 saving might not be that impressive, the opportunity to register for multiple years and then not have to worry about re-registering will give you peace of mind – you’ll be protected, and now you won’t have to worry about it.

Your Sunrise Period registrations are not included in the price of Trademark Clearinghouse registration. The cost of registration is wholly dependent on the individual registries in charge of the nTLDs you want to register with.

You can register up to ten different variations of your registered trademark before having to pay extra, and the cost to add a variation is nominal – only a one dollar a year per variation of the same trademark. To register multiple trademarks, you’ll be billed $150 for each. If you have a portfolio of a multitude of trademarks, you may want to look into going through a trademark agent, because agents earn points as they register trademarks and get discounted prices the more trademarks they register. Those savings may get passed on to you.

If you register early, which is now, you’ll be included in the Early Bird registration, which means that although you’ll be covered immediately, your registration won’t expire until a year after the sunrise period of any given nTLD starts, so you’ll be getting an extra few months of coverage for free. For detailed pricing plans, click here.

How to Register

In order to register:

  1. Go to Trademark-Clearinghouse.com and click “Register Now.”
  2. You’ll have the option to register as a trademark holder or trademark agent.
  3. Be sure to complete the online forms accurately – if your trademark is rejected for any reason, including clerical error, you’ll still be charged.
  4. You’ll be prompted to provide the proper documentation, and your trademark needs to be a legally recognized and registered trademark. Some exceptions apply, which are listed here.
  5. The Clearinghouse will notify you when your trademark is accepted or rejected. The time it takes to get back to you is dependent on how many trademarks you enter.

For more information about what exactly the TMCH does, check out our incredibly informed, well-written explanation, here. Also, one of the best ways to watch for Sunrise periods is to subscribe to our nTLD watcher. Let us know which nTLDs you want to know about and we’ll email you as they move through the process and enter into Sunrise.

Any questions we didn’t answer? Leave them in the comments section and we’ll get back to you.

First 60 New gTLD Applications Have Received Their Initial Evaluation Results

The first 60 new gTLD applications have been reviewed by ICANN, and even though eight are remain in review for various reasons, all other 52 applications have passed into delegation. Because all of the internationalized domain names were prioritized first, every application that has passed through the Initial Evaluation is a non-Latin script domain extension. For a list of the first 60 applicants, click here.

Why didn’t eight of the applications get final results? According to ICANN, that could be for a variety of reasons, including pending change requests, clarifying the ntlds are coming soonquestions, or a need for missing information to be provided. Whatever the reason, ICANN promises to turn around results on these pending applications as soon as possible.

Although in these first two rounds, all applications either passed, or received a pending results notification, there are two other options for ICANN to designate an application as they determine Initial Evaluation outcomes:

  • Eligible for Extended Evaluation:  While one or more of the determining qualifiers in the applicants review needed improvement or more information, ICANN has determined that the applicant may extend their evaluation period and address the errors or redirect areas of their application that need to be clarified. In this instance, the applicant may still receive a passing mark. For this result, the areas of improvement may be financial, technical, or geographical.
  • Ineligible for Further Review: If an applicant receives this status as the result of their Initial Evaluation, then the application has been denied due to the fact that ICANN review panels determined the applicant either does not have the infrastructure to support registration, or the string conflicts with another. For this result, the applicant did not pass the criteria for string similarity, background screening, or DNS stability.

For those who have received their passing results, the next step and how quickly the extension becomes available for public registration depends wholly on the applicant. The applicants are now able to begin contracting as early as April 23, depending on whether or not they have no objections or contentions, and whether their systems are ready to launch.

There will be a new set of 30 applications with finalized Initial Evaluation results every week, and ICANN hopes to keep increasing this number up to 100, so that it is possible that they might move through all applications by the end of August.

Keep updated on the nTLDs you’re watching by joining our watcher service. You tell us which extensions you want info on and we’ll let you know the status of the application and when they enter sunrise, landrush, and general registration.

The Different Types of New gTLDs: Which One is Right for You?

The amount of new gTLD applications is at once exciting and terrifying (kind of like my second cup of coffee every morning). Exciting, because you’re going to have more options than ever to find the right domain name for you. Terrifying, because there are tons of applications and it can be overwhelming to figure out which nTLDs are going to offer the best choices.

You can check out the ICANN list of applications, which you can search by priority number, alphabetically, by location, by applicant, or by term, to see how many applicants are applying for the term you’re interested in. You can also check out our list, which is arranged by specialty and interest, to help give you a jumping-off point for figuring out what nTLDs might be in your marketable area.

But, either way, you’re still juggling a lot of information, and it’s important to be able to discern the different types of applications so you know which registries may be open to you. Here’s a breakdown of the different types of proposed extensions, and some examples of each, so you know what to look for as you peruse the list.

Open, Restricted, and Closed Registries:

There are three different types of registries – open, restricted, and closed. In order to figure out which are which, you have to read through the beginning part of an application, all of which can be found via PDF hyperlinks in the ICANN application list.

Open: Anyone can register in an open registry. The registry will either act as its own registrar, or delegate registration to accredited registrars, who will then register available extensions to you. Open registries are meant to operate as free markets, and many applicants site that they prefer to remain open in order to allow the Internet community to shape the meaning of the nTLD.

Restricted: Individuals, companies, or groups within a certain set of criteria may register. Restricted registries are often community or geographic registries, meaning that you can register a domain, provided you belong to the community, or to the geographic area defined by the registry.

Restricted registries aren’t always community or geographic registry groups, however. Many brand registries are operating as restricted, limiting registration to customers and employees, and some generic term nTLD applications offer restricted access, as well. For example, Amazon plans to offer .book to authors within their own Kindle community, while Google plans to offer .blog to Blogger users only.

The restricted registry is meant to maintain the validity of new gTLDs attempting to define a certain sector, and many applicants explain that a semi-private registry provides a safer, more well-constructed virtual name space.

Closed: You won’t likely be able to register a domain in a closed registry, because many closed registries are brand extensions, so the registration will be kept in the company for obvious marketing and trademark reasons. In these instances, the registry acts as registry, registrar, and registrant, keeping control of the new gTLD at all levels.

Closed registries are meant to strengthen branding, and protect trademarks by creating a closed name space for a certain group or company to expand their own identity.

Geographic, Community, Brand, and Generic Groupings:

Most applications can be grouped into four different sections – geographic, community, brand, or generic – and each section can be open, closed, or restricted, depending on the applicant. At times, one proposed nTLD may be applied for by many applicants, who each represent a different combination. For instance, .art is applied for by 10 applicants, two of which are community applications, and of the two community applications, one community wishes to run an open registry and the other wishes to run a restricted registry.

Geographic: Any nTLD specific to a geographical area – whether a country, city, or continent. Examples include .Berlin, .NYC, .Madrid, .Africa.

Community: New gTLDs meant to be used as community registries. These applications get preference over all other types of applications and may relate to any type of community, whether religious, interest, profession, charity, or other. Examples include .LGBT, .Islam, .art, .tennis, .med.

Brand: Proposed nTLDs that relate directly to a trademarked brand, and will be used to help strengthen the brand by providing brand-specific domain extensions to the company. Examples include .AIG, .Samsung, .BestBuy, .Flowers, .JCP.

Generic: Any generic term used outside of the other three categories. Often generic term applications have a mixture of brand, closed, open, restricted, and sometimes community and geographic. That’s when things get complicated. Examples of generic nTLDs include .bike, .car, .app, .eco, .film.

Aside from all the variations on nTLDs, there are also internationalized extensions that use non-Latin script characters. Many applications are for Mandarin extensions, but there are also Cyrillic, Hindi, Japanese, Arabic, Sanskrit, and other languages represented as well. The applications range in the same categories, except that they do not contain Latin script and are prioritized for release before any Latin script applications.

Once you narrow down the nTLDs that best suit you, keep an eye on them with our watcher, which allows you to choose specific extensions in receive information on sunrise, application evaluations, and landrush. And keep checking back here, for current information as applications move through evaluation.

What’s Next for the nTLDS? An Overview of ICANN’s Initial Evaluation Timeline and Process

If you’ve been anxiously awaiting the nTLDs (new gTLDs), then you’re not alone. Some of us are too excited to sleep and spend most of our nights continuously refreshing the ICANN homepage, hoping to see more information about when these little guys are going live. But enough about us, because the 1,917 nTLD applicants still in the running have been waiting for ICANN’s initial evaluation results since October, and they’ve got an exciting few months ahead of them.

ICANN’s working hard to get through all the applications, and hopes to start releasing initial evaluation results later this month. For those of you new to nTLD watching, or those who have been patiently standing by for more information, here’s a run-down of what to expect, as the initial evaluations start coming out.

Christine Willett, the general manager of ICANN’s new gTLD program, hosted a webinar about the initial evaluation process, to try to solidify important dates and let applicants know where their applications stood. The main takeaway points were:

  • Initial evaluation results are set to be released, according to priority draw number, on Mar. 23, 2013.
  • ICANN hopes to review about 100 application per week, starting now and ending in June 2013 – meaning that depending where an application is on the priority drawing list, that applicant will receive their initial evaluation results anywhere between Mar. 23 and the end of June.
  • About 80% of applicants will receive clarifying questions (CQs) during their initial evaluation process — those CQs will be issued between Jan. and June of this year. The questions are meant to clarify areas of applications that need more information, or to update information that may have changed since the initial applications were received, in June of 2012.
  • Applicants have four weeks to respond to clarifying questions.
  • After clarifying questions, applications will go through a final review, and initial evaluation results will be published, again according to priority draw placement, starting in May 2013, and ending in August 2013.

So if you’re wondering when the first nTLDs are going to “go live,” the best guess for applications closer to the front of the priority list, would be sometime in the summer of this year. Applicants will still have to go through a pre-delegation process after the initial evaluation results are published, so even if applicants make it through the initial evaluation with no major concerns (most are expected to), applicants won’t be going straight from initial evaluation to launch.

Still fuzzy on what exactly the initial evaluation is? During the initial evaluation, ICANN has multiple panels reviewing applications. Each panel is named for the service it provides, and the panels included in initial evaluation are:

  • Background screening: The background screening process is already partially complete. ICANN already checked to make sure that those applying are who they say they are, but now ICANN will need to evaluate the background of the applicant to make sure there are no conflicts of interest, such as a former cyber-squatter applying for administration rights of nTLDs.
  • String similarity: During the initial evaluation, ICANN will be checking each applicant to make sure proposed nTLDs are not too similar to one another, or to previously released gTLDs, in order to prevent string contentions.
  • DNS stability: ICANN will make sure each applicant has the DNS (domain name system) capability to support the administration and registry of their proposed nTLD.
  • Geographic names: During this phase of evaluation, ICANN makes sure that no proposed strings are in contention with geographical TLDs. Swiss Airlines already had to withdraw their application to .SWISS for this exact reason.
  • Financial: In order to properly administrate a nTLD, the applicant needs to have the financial stability to properly run and support the needs of the registry.
  • Technical and operational: Another initial evaluation check to make sure the applicants proposing nTLDs have the capability to run and support an entire registry for their nTLD(s).
  • Registry services: During this evaluation, applicants will be checked to make sure the manner in which they will be registering their nTLD conforms to ICANN guidelines, and that the proposed use of a string, as expressed in the application, meshes with the ICANN guidelines concerning how to provide registry services.

If you’re as excited as we are about nTLDs, then keep checking back here, on our blog – we’ll keep posting up-to-date information on the new gTLD application process. If you’ve got your eye on a handful of nTLDs, make sure to check out our nTLD watcher, which will keep you updated on the nTLDs you care about.

 

 

Perfect nTLDs for an E-Commerce Storefront

Remember when everyone started using online storefronts and the older generation was all, “Those crazy kids with these crazy electronic stores. Whatever happened to selling door to door, or in the market?” Of course you don’t – that was like a bazillion years ago. And besides, those people have been proven dead wrong.

The average U.S. consumer spends over $1,000 a year online, and that number is expected to increase by 44% in the next three years, 71% of shoppers believe they’ll get a better deal online than in stores, and in the next few years, mobile shopping is expected to count for $64 billion of revenue in the U.S. alone (according to a 2012 eMarketer report).ntld storefront irony

Bottom line: It’s time to start your e-commerce site, open an online front for your brick and mortar business, or max-out your e-commerce storefront with blogs, product pages, and sales tabs. If you’re looking for affordable new domains in the next year, consider some of the new gTLDs that are coming your way – you’ll be able to get short, memorable domain names with industry-specific extensions at landrush prices, and some of the nTLDs are specifically tailored for e-commerce.

Here’s a couple nTLD suggestions that would be perfect for e-commerce:

  • .SHOP: When you’re looking for a good, searchable domain name, one of the rules is to stick with highly searchable keyword terms. What if you could put one of those terms in your domain name without compromising length, or the name of your company? That’s what a .SHOP domain can offer you, as an e-commerce owner. You’ll be able to have access to a virtual name space for shopping, and acquire a domain name that says, “You can shop here.”
  • .BUY: Just like .SHOP, .BUY creates a generic-term domain name that both adds a searchable keyword to your extension and signals to potential customers what business sector you belong to. .BUY and .SHOP are slotted to be industry-wide nTLDs that offer a unique name space for retailers, all over the world, who sell their merchandise online.
  • .PROMO: Promos make the e-commerce world go around. Conversion rates increase during promotional periods, especially when promoting on social networks. Get a unique domain name specifically for your promotions page with .PROMO. Because it’s a new top level domain, you’ll be able to register your trademark during the sunrise period and secure yourcompany.promo for use during all of your future promotions. .PROMO is easily-identifiable to your customers and allows you to develop a specific site extension for the purpose of promotion.
  • .COUPONS/.DEALS/.DISCOUNT: Who doesn’t love a bargain? For real. If you know anyone who hates bargains, have them contact us so we can interview them for the blog because they would be a true anomaly. Having a page on your e-commerce site specific to savings allows your customers to go straight to the “bargain bin,” so to speak, if they’re shopping on a budget. Anytime you can make your site easier to navigate, conversion rates increase. These extensions offer a way to use your company name and a savings-centered extension to promote your deals, discounts, and coupons. Adding pages also increases inbound links, which helps SEO.
  • .ECOM: It doesn’t really get more industry specific than .ECOM. While you might be able to find nTLDs that cater to the industry you sell in, such as .SHOES, .CAR, and .BIKE, .ECOM is a perfect domain for any e-commercial business that doesn’t fit into a generic term category, or for any e-commercial business that sells products and services meant to increase other e-com sites, such as hosting services, analytics, shopping carts, purchasing services, affiliate marketing, social media enhancement, etc. .ECOM serves many different purposes, but stays specific to e-commerce.

Check out our complete list of nTLDs, including a retail-specific category. Also sign up to watch your favorite nTLDs, so you know when landrush and sunrise periods start, by using our watcher.

 

Defensive New gTLD Registration for the Small Business Owner — Protect Your Brand and Your Bottom Line

Unless you’re some kind of crazy nut, who loves spending money when you don’t need to, the prospect of new gTLDs might be worrying you. After all, it’s not ntld defend your trademarkpossible for the average business owner to register a brand extension, and now that almost two thousand applications are finishing evaluation, there’s more concern about how to protect your brand than ever. Because nTLD awareness is ever-increasing, there’s added media attention, a lot of misinformation about how you as a trademark owner can protect your brand, and a lot of panic concerning the amount of money it will cost you.

One of the most talked about topics in trademark protection is defensive registration, or registering your brand, and the close misspellings of your brand, with nTLD registries to ensure that your Internet space is not obtained by another individual or company, and to protect the uniqueness of your mark.

While defensive registration is probably already a part of your protection strategy (if you’ve registered your trademark with more than one extension, like .com and .net), unilateral defensive registration in the case of nTLDs will be too costly for the majority of business owners, particularly small business owners. Registering your trademark and its common misspellings with well over 1,000 registries is a daunting proposal. Luckily, we don’t think it’s necessary or even possible to defensively register your brand for every extension. Here are some simple steps to take, before and after new extensions launch, to effectively protect your trademark while saving your bottom line.

  1. Read the ICANN guidebook. It’s not exactly a page-turner, but the ICANN guidebook is a must-read for any business owner concerned with protecting brands and trademarks in the next few years. The guidebook thoroughly explains many of the protections already in place for business owners, including sunrise periods, the Trademark Clearinghouse, and the Uniform Rapid Suspension System. We talk about these options a lot more, here, but the bottom line is that before you consider defensive registration, you should become familiar with the more affordable protections in place. One of ICANN’s main goals is to block cyber-squatting and reduce brand infringements, so use the measures they put in place to your advantage.
  2.  Scope out the nTLD territory. Using an online list of applications, like the one on the ICANN website, or the list on our site (which is organized by specialty), become familiar with the proposed gTLDs. Know that many of the applications are for brand gTLDs, community gTLDs, or geographic gTLDs, and these registries will operate as closed registries, available only to those who are in the community of the registrar. Many other applications for generic term extensions are also proposed closed registries, meaning that you wouldn’t be able to register for a domain in that registry, even if you wanted to. Also note that any closely related gTLDs, like .house and .houses, or .law and .lawyer, will probably not coexist, but rather one entity will be given the rights to run the registry for one of the proposed extensions. By knocking out the nTLDs that don’t relate to you, 1,917 applications becomes a much more manageable number and you can focus on your market.
  3. Figure out which nTLDs are in your marketable area. Once you’ve started to weed out the extensions you have no control over, start taking a look at which extensions interest you, as well as which extensions relate directly to your market. Assuming your brand is not a wide-ranging unique brand name, like Kleenex, then you’ll only have to worry about registration in the domains that matter directly to you – the extensions you’d probably look into registering, anyway. If you own a shoe business, for example, .shoe, .shop, and .shopping might be of interest to you. Using a watcher, like the one we offer, will allow you to follow the application process of that extension, and know when sunrise opens, so you can register your trademark before anyone else or watch registrations to make sure your brand is safe.
  4. Use the Trademark Clearinghouse. We’ve said it before, but registering your trademark in the Trademark Clearinghouse is cost-effective, and makes good use of the defensive strategies ICANN is building to protect you. For $150 a registration, you can register your trademark in the TMCH, and all registries will have to check their new registrations against the TMCH database, to ensure your rights aren’t infringed upon. Both you and the potential domain registrant will receive a notification when another person or company tries to register a string too similar to your trademark.
  5. Watch free domain registrations very closely. Many market experts agree that while there is need to be concerned about trademark protection, the .xxx delegation process has shown that because new gTLDs are priced a bit higher, cyber-squatting is often less profitable. For example, with the launch of .xxx, there have been a relatively small amount of disputes. However, if extension go up for grabs, like Google has mentioned doing with a few of their extensions (offering .free for free), then cyber-squatting has a better chance of occurring, since the profit margin is higher. Tracking free nTLDs, and registering your trademark first, may be an important and easy first step in protecting yourself at a later date.

So don’t break out your pocketbook just yet – the most important first step in protecting your brand is to educate yourself on the process, watch the nTLDs that matter most to your market space, use the defensive mechanisms put in place for you, and only register what you need to. Defensively registering in all domain spaces is not only costly, but unnecessary.

To view a list of the proposed extensions, organized by specialty, check out our nTLD list here. To watch specific nTLDs, and be notified of any changes in the application process, sign up for our watcher. It’s a free service that allows you to enter only the nTLDs you’d like to watch and keep updated on them.

nTLDs and Trademark Protection: How ICANN’s Trademark Clearinghouse Protects Your Brand

Perhaps you’ve been wondering how, with all the nTLDs releasing in the near future, you’ll be able to protect your brand. The Internet is about to get huge (echo “huge” in your head for added effect), so how will your trademark stand its ground?  ICANN has got you covered. With the addition of a Trademark Clearinghouse (TMCH), ICANN hopes to help protect trademark security and clean up the waste of cost and time usually spent protecting trademark portfolios by simplifying the protection process. Because time is money, and money is numbers, and numbers are… well, you see where we’re going here.

What the TMCH is:

The Trademark Clearinghouse is a digital database in which trademark owners will be able to register their trademark. Once the trademark is registered, it brand copyright protect becomes a part of the Clearinghouse, and every time a nTLD becomes available, during the Sunset Period (the first sixty days after domains are available for purchase), the administering registry for that gTLD must run each new domain name through the database to make sure there are no matches. If there is a match, the applicant for the new domain name is notified, as well as the owner of the matched trademark. The process gives trademark owners the chance to protect their brand with minimal legwork.

What the TMCH does:

The TMCH will also provide a rapid dispute solution, to take down domains that infringe on other trademark copyrights, as well as provide a process for determining who gets rights when more than one registered trademark can claim ownership over the same domain. If a trademark owner identifies a rights infringement in the registration of a new domain, that owner can file an objection. ICANN has the ability to then pull an infringing domain quickly, allowing for added security to the trademark owner. The TMCH provides a point of contact to begin disputing and in doing so, creates a safer environment for trademark owners to protect their rights.

Arguably, the most defining characteristic of the new TMCH is that instead of having to register your entire trademark portfolio with every registry administering a new gTLD, you only have to register with the TMCH. That means, if you have a trademark portfolio of 10 trademarks, and 500 nTLDs start registering in the next few years, you saved money and time you would have spent on 5,000 different registrations. With the TMCH, you’ll only have to register your portfolio once, with the TMCH, and the registries, which are required to run every new domain through the database, will catch duplications before domains get registered.

The future of the TMCH:

ICANN is still working out the details for the implementation and administration of the TMCH, and many officials involved with the development are quick to point out that the process isn’t perfect, but the Clearinghouse provides a working solution to a previously huge problem – how to allow trademark owners to affordably protect their ownership.

Aside from the TMCH, many registries are in the process of developing their own measures to protect against trademark infringement, as well. The combination of registry guards, the TMCH, and trademark owners will hopefully make protecting against infringement a little easier. Read more about the nTLDs here on our blog, or follow our watcher as the application process unfolds.

String Similarity and the New gTLDs – Does ICANN Have Too Many Similar Extensions in the Running?

One of the most pressing concerns with nTLDs is whether or not the launch of so many in such a relatively short amount of time will complicate the functionality of the Internet for everyday users. Wrapped up in this worry, is the focus on string similarity, or how close a proposed nTLD can be in meaning, sound, or visual representation to another, or to an existing gTLD.

There are rules in the ICANN guidebook concerning how similar strings can be, and they seem to spell-out that strings should definitely not be close in visual representation, while giving more leeway to how close two strings can be in meaning and sound. As experts watch the process, and the upcoming Initial Evaluation results, which will indicate string similarity issues, some believe that there’s a lot of flexibility, while others believe there’s not.

ICANN defines the purpose of their String Similarity Panel as such:

“The String Similarity Panel will review the entire pool of applied-for strings to determine whether the strings proposed in any two or more applications are so similar that they would create a probability of user confusion if allowed to coexist in the DNS.” (4-3)

The guidebook further explains that the String Similarity Panel will look for the flowing issues:

  • Whether or not a proposed string is too visually similar to another string, either already in existence or proposed.
  • Whether or not a proposed string is too similar, by proxy. For example, if A string is too similar to B string, and B string is too similar to C string, then A string will need to be accessed as well, even if it’s not similar to C string on its own.
  • Whether or not the launch of a certain nTLD will cause user confusion.nTLDs domain names

In a letter written in November, but only recently posted to ICANN’s site last week, Jeffrey Smith, the CEO of Commercial Connect, LLC, let ICANN know that their guidelines are both hard to parse-out for interpretation and may mean that only 56 proposed nTLDs are actually unique, if the guidelines are taken strictly.

Smith, in conjunction with Commercial Connect, is applying for the rights to .shop, a follow-up to an application Commercial Connect submitted in 2000, when they were asked to submit again, as a part of the larger nTLD push. Smith states that his letter is written as a community member more than an applicant, and he points out that if all 1,917 applications are considered in accordance with the string similarity guidelines put forth by ICANN, then not just visually similar strings should be knocked-out of the running, but also similarly sounding and meaning strings, too:

“There has been an understanding that no new gTLD would be released that had similar meaning, sound, or appearance to any existing TLD. This has roots in protecting the end user from being confused about which TLD should be used and lends credibility to the intent of the process. The premise of keeping the internet a safe, secure and user friendly environment for all stakeholders supports this rule.”

To illustrate what Smith is talking about, here are just a few examples of current applied-for nTLDs that could be considered too similar to launch, depending on how strictly you interpret the guidelines:

  • .auto, .car, .autos, .cars
  • .loans, .loan; .market, .markets; .work, .works
  • .buy, .shop, .shopping
  • .lawyer, .esq, .law

There are many examples like these – where words are similar visually, many times just the difference between singular and plural form, or that words are too similar in meaning, such as with “buy” and “shop.” Smith argues that IDNs should also be considered in the same mix as other nTLDs – since both will be existing together as options to one another.

Yet, some argue that Smith’s representation is too oversimplified. If an applicant applies for .auto, and wishes to use it as a closed registry, in conjunction with their business, than a .car would suffice to establish an open-market nTLD in place of the word “auto.” Some argue that having “car” and “auto” in any capacity would be confusing; others argue that Internet users are flexible and capable of discerning the uses of both nTLDs.

With so many applications in the works, it’ll be interesting to see how ICANN broaches the subject, and whether or not we’ll see the number of possible nTLDs lower as launch dates get nearer.

Where do you stand on string contention? The more the merrier, or too many cooks in the kitchen? Use any outdated and corny colloquialism you want – we won’t judge you. We just want to get your take.

If you have your eye on the application process, check out our nTLD watcher. Plugin the nTLD you want to track, and we’ll send you updates as they make their way through evaluation. Or keep checking back here, to our blog, for updated information.

Most Users Don’t Know What New gTLDs Are — Do You?

At the beginning of December, a company named FairWinds released a white paper report, the results of which indicated that 74% of the Internet users they surveyed have no clue what new gTLDs (nTLDs) are, didn’t know they’ll be released in the near future, and thought the application process was incredibly confusing. The results aren’t much of a surprise to us — we’re in the business of domains, so we know while there’s a lot of information to keep up with, there’s not a lot of media frenzy outside of tech mags.

kim kardashian better known than ntlds

Mainstream media hasn’t focused a lot on ICANN’s process, many social media organizations aren’t even invested in nTLDs, and the big companies who are invested, like Amazon, Google, and Yahoo! aren’t talking publicly about why they’re interested, or what the nTLDs will mean for e-commerce, search engine results, or the way we surf the Internet. Because there’s not enough mainstream exposure, most people know more about Kim Kardashian’s Christmas than they do about nTLDs (unwillingly, of course).

Maybe you just found out about the nTLDs (new generic top-level domains), or you’ve never heard of them, and you’re wondering why you should care and what the change will mean to you. (If you’ve never heard of nTLDs, start here.) There are still a lot of quandaries we don’t know the answer to – which nTLDs will get approved, when exactly they’ll go live (they’ll start in 2013, and you can view the release order on ICANN’s site), how much they’ll cost, or how they’ll affect SEO. But we do know that nTLDs will change the Internet as we know it, and if you aren’t paying attention now, you will be when the first nTLDs start going releasing.

Don’t wait until the releases to start learning about nTLDs. We think there are benefits to starting your education early, including:

  • Being brand aware. If you own a company, then you should know if someone is trying to register a nTLD that either defines your market niche, or uses a generic term you use in your brand name. You should be aware of the Trademark Clearinghouse, and be ready to object to gTLD string that may infringe on your trademark rights. You can view all proposed nTLDs and who the applicants are on ICANN’s website.
  • Planning the future of your website. Maybe you’d like a chance to get into the nTLD world. If you own a brewery, for instance, you might be interested in a .BEER extension. Knowing about who will administer the nTLD, when it will be approved, and preregistering possible domain strings, either to serve as your webpage or as an extension to your web page, will prove valuable to anyone looking to get a piece of their niche nTLD.
  • Got a problem with an nTLD? You can object now. Right now, if you object to a proposed nTLD, or the possible use of it, you have a chance to file a public objection with ICANN. After the objection period closes, it will be a lot harder to have any say in a gTLD that might affect you. All the information about who’s applying to administrate the gTLD, when they’ll launch, and the Early Warnings issued to applicants is available on the ICANN website until Mar. 13. You can add to any current objections, or rest assured that the nTLD you’ve got your eye on is going through the application process smoothly.
  • Start thinking about SEO. There’s nothing concrete yet about how new nTLDs will affect SEO, so you can’t start planning, but you can start researching. Adding a “gTLD” feed to your Google News feed, or taking time every couple of weeks to search “SEO and new gTLDs,” can help you stay abreast of the changes. nTLDs are already used in SEO, so knowing whether or not an extension with a market keyword may help traffic or will be virtually useless can help you plan for the future and decide whether you can afford to watch the market, or you need to get into the landrush.

Whether you’re invested now in keeping an eye on the nTLD application process may mean the difference between confusion or comfort when nTLDs hit the mainstream media and start going active. There’s no question that nTLDs are coming, or that they’ll be big news, so knowing the terminology, the gTLDs you might be interested in, how to protect your brand, and basic information about how the process works can save you feeling lost or uninformed next year, when the first new nTLDs release.

For more information, check out our nTLD news and information, here on our blog. You can click on “nTLDs” section, in the blog site map in the right hand margin for nTLD specific news. We also have an nTLD watchlist you can subscribe to, which will tell you up-to-date information about the specific gTLDs you’re interested in.