ICANN's Top-Level Domain Plan Sure to Cause Years of Squabbling, Litigation

By Wayne Rash  |  Posted 2012-06-14 Print this article Print

NEWS ANALYSIS: Competition for favored generic top-level domains is already fierce as multiple applicants vie for the domain names they want, think they need or think they can sell to someone else.

ICANN€™s Big Reveal Day revealed what everyone expected. Thousands of applicants applied for thousands of new gTLDs (generic top-level domains). The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers revealed the list of who applied for which top-level domains.

Some of the applicants and the names they applied for are no surprise. Large companies applied for TLDs that are the same as their names, for example, Google applied for .google and .youtube. Abbott Laboratories applied for .abbott.

But there are other TLDs that have many applicants. For example, the .app domain has been applied for by 13 different applicants, some of which appear suspiciously like what I suppose you would call domain trolls that intend to buy a domain and then see how much they can con someone into paying for it. The TLD .airforce, for example, wasn€™t applied for by any nation€™s air force, but by a domain-name holding company.

Some domain applications seem to have applications from seemingly equal groups. The domain .cruise applications are from two different cruise lines. Others, like .diy are being competed for by groups of holding companies. But still others, such as .foodnetwork, are being applied for only by a single domain brokerage. You can guess who they€™ll try to sell that one to.

What€™s happened here is that a number of companies failed to protect their trademarks, and now they€™re finding that someone else has applied for the TLD, and if they want it, they€™ll have to put up with either a trademark lawsuit or fork over a ton of cash to get it.

Most of the really big companies out there apparently have marketing officers savvy enough to know that applying for a TLD in their name was a good way to protect their trademark, and to ensure that their customers wouldn€™t be confused by an email or a Website that seems to be theirs, but isn€™t.

So what€™s going to happen when this all shakes out? For many applicants, the process will be straightforward. They€™re either the trademark holder and they were the only applicant for a domain, so they will get it; or they represent a region, such as the applicant for .barcelona, which represents the region. They€™ll also get their choice.

Then there are the vast numbers of domain trolls that have applied for names such as .shop, and no matter what ICANN does, there€™ll probably be a fight.

Wayne Rash Wayne Rash is a Senior Analyst for eWEEK Labs and runs the magazine's Washington Bureau. Prior to joining eWEEK as a Senior Writer on wireless technology, he was a Senior Contributing Editor and previously a Senior Analyst in the InfoWorld Test Center. He was also a reviewer for Federal Computer Week and Information Security Magazine. Previously, he ran the reviews and events departments at CMP's InternetWeek.

He is a retired naval officer, a former principal at American Management Systems and a long-time columnist for Byte Magazine. He is a regular contributor to Plane & Pilot Magazine and The Washington Post.

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