ICANNs 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, wasnt applied for by any nations 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 theyll try to sell that one to.
Whats happened here is that a number of companies failed to protect their trademarks, and now theyre finding that someone else has applied for the TLD, and if they want it, theyll 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 wouldnt be confused by an email or a Website that seems to be theirs, but isnt.
So whats going to happen when this all shakes out? For many applicants, the process will be straightforward. Theyre 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. Theyll 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, therell probably be a fight.
Some Marketing Execs Have Explaining to Do
While ICANN has a time stamp process thats supposed to give priority, its unclear exactly how thats going to work out.
But for those fairly generic domain applicants for things like .home, it would seem that the only solution that will ultimately decide who gets what will be a trip to the courts, and that will be an interesting challenge indeed. For one thing, itll be hard to prove which of the various domain trolls has a better claim than another. Adding to the complexity is that these companies are from all over the world, so its not like a trip to the federal courts will solve the problem.
One company, Top Level Domain Holdings, is based in London, and its stated purpose is to invest in domain names so it can sell them at a profit. On the other hand, some well-known ISPs and Internet companies, such as Godaddy.com, have applied for a variety of TLDs, which one can assume will be used to offer hosting to customers.
It would be unfair of me to cast all of these companies as domain trolls, because in many cases they are simply companies who plan to control these fairly generic names and sell them for what the market will bear. Its a simple business transaction.
But then there are the companies that are applying for another companys trademark as a domain name, such as .homedepot, where its obvious that the plan is to hold the Home Depot TLD hostage.
There is a process in which trademark holders can challenge an assignment of their trademark as a domain name to someone who doesnt have rights to the trademark. But, again, its not clear how long this could take or how much it is likely to cost.
But it could be worse. Most of the major companies with significant value in their trademarks applied for their own TLDs, and they dont have anyone else trying to do the same. In a situation like that, there will be no contest.
But for a few, the contest may go on for what seems like forever. You have to wonder how the Travel Channel let the TLD .travelchannel go to a likely domain troll, just as Food Network did. Clearly, a marketing officer somewhere is going to have a lot of explaining to do. But in the long run, its going to be the lawyers who spend the rest of their careers making the biggest profit of all.