One of the most talked about developments in nTLDland (yes, nTLDland is an actual, mystical place where everything has a dot right in front of it), is how to best protect your brand as the nTLDs (new gTLDs) launch. With almost 2,000 nTLD applications making their way through the final stages of the process, you may have to rethink the practices you use to keep your brand secure on the Web. The million dollar question seems to be (pun intended): How can you keep your brand safe without bleeding money in the process?
The Strawman Solution
If you’ve been following ICANN lately, then you know the Internet community is engaged in a two-sided conversation concerning just that. The “Strawman Solution,” tentative policy enforcements proposed by ICANN to add protective measures to the policies already in place — such as more time in the sunrise periods and more time required for registrars to use the Trademark Clearinghouse — is garnering attention from those concerned with the protection of intellectual property.
Comments on ICANN’s website, about the Strawman Solution, center on two main arguments: That the Trademark Clearinghouse, sunrise periods, Uniform Rapid Suspension System, and Uniform Domain Dispute Policy ought to be enough to protect brands and trademarks, if the Internet public takes enough time to utilize each. And, on the other side of the argument, the concern that these measures alone are not enough to protect brands and the proposed enforcements should proceed. The conversation has attracted comments from big name corporations, registrars, and applicants alike.
Both sides are concerned with time and money. Those looking to implement the Strawman Solution are concerned that time and money will be wasted by trademark owners trying to defend their brands, and so are looking for more protective measures, up front. Those who wish to proceed without the Strawman Solution worry that adding more burden to the front end of an nTLD launch will make the already heftily expensive application process more costly, and add even more time until nTLD domains are available for public registration.
Brand protection isn’t a new concern, but the launch of nTLDs has a lot of industry experts rethinking the way you can protect your intellectual property. While defensive registration is important, unilateral defensive registration isn’t an option for everyone. To register your brand in every nTLD (1,917) would be costly,to say the least. While defensive domain registration is still an important step in securing your place on the Web, there are other ways you can remain protected without having to register your trademark in every nTLD. Here’s a break-down of your options as nTLDs launch:
1. Know the ICANN nTLD Guidebook. Taking some time to read over parts of the ICANN nTLD guidebook, concerning the Trademark Clearinghouse, sunrise periods, string contention, and the Uniform Rapid Suspension System and Uniform Domain Name Dispute Policy can go a long way in helping you make informed choices concerning the protection of your brand. There are a lot of systems in place, as explained in the guidebook, that you can use to your advantage if you feel your brand has been infringed upon, or to protect your brand from possible infringement.
2. Register your brand and domain strings in the Trademark Clearinghouse (TMCH). When the Trademark Clearinghouse launches this spring, you have the opportunity to register your trademarks for $150 each. Registering your trademark helps to prevent others from infringing on your brand rights because your brand will become a part of the TMCH database. Anyone who tries to register an nTLD with a string that’s too close to your trademark will be notified.
3. Take advantage of the sunrise period. During the sunrise period of each nTLD, which is the first 30 days after it launches, you’ll have the chance to register your own domain strings to protect your brand. Because almost 2,000 nTLDs are going to launch in the coming year, many experts agree that protectively registering domain strings in each nTLD will be too expensive for many, but to register the nTLDs that closely relate to your market sector is a good way to both secure your trademark and own a spot in the nTLD world.
4. If needed, utilize the Uniform Rapid Suspension System (URS) and the Uniform Domain Name Dispute Policy (UDRP). If another entity registers a domain string that infringes on your copyright, or brand, then you could utilize the Uniform Rapid Suspension System. The URS is meant to provide a cost-effective ($300-$500 an arbitration) and timely way to freeze domains that threaten other brands. Once a complaint is filed with the URS, the registrar must suspend the domain and alert the owner. The owner then has 14 days to respond. If the owner does not respond, or cannot defend their use of the domain, the domain is put into the URS indefinitely.
The Uniform Domain Name Dispute Policy is a policy already in place that provides guidelines for domain disputes. UDRP outlines a procedure that you may follow to alert a registrar to possible copyright infringement and begin working to take a hostile domain down. The guide-lined process moves slower than the URS, which is why the URS has been implemented for the release of nTLDs in the first place. ICANN hopes both the policy and the system will work in conjunction to help brand owners secure their property.
Weigh in. What do you think?
So, now that you know your options, do you feel secure? Do you think the Strawman Solution adds to your protection, or adds cost and time to a process that’s already dragged-out months longer than ICANN expected? We want to hear your take on brand protection, what you plan to do as nTLDs launch, and whether or not you think these measures are enough, or too much.