What is a gTLD? gTLDs are generic top-level domains similar to .com, .net or .org. The current system has 24 gTLDs. Soon, we will be seeing new gTLDs, such as .ART, .NEWS, .STORE, in the largest-ever expansion of the Internet’s naming system.

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the nonprofit organization that manages this piece of the Internet’s infrastructure, has been preparing for this domain name expansion for nearly a decade. In June of 2011, it formally approved the expansion and started planning the application process for new gTLDs.

On June 13, 2012, ICANN held a “Reveal Day” event during which the new gTLD applications were unveiled — all 1,930 of them. The applications greatly exceed the 500 applications originally anticipated, demonstrating the impact of the new gTLD program on the Internet space in the coming months and years. The applicant list included several automakers like Fiat, Chrysler and Volkswagen — as well as a few banks including JPMorgan Chase and Barclays. Several tech companies, including Apple, Google, Netflix and AOL, also submitted applications to turn their brand name into a domain. Amazon submitted applications for 76 gTLDs, including .read, .store, .music, .fire, .cloud, .news and .pay. Google also played big, applying for 101 new domains.

It is important for organizations — even those that did not apply for their own new gTLDs — to remain aware of the program, its upcoming deadlines, and potential enforcement options. For brand owners and trademark holders, this means taking steps and developing a strategy to detect and deter possible infringement.

There are protective measures currently in place for trademark owners to oppose a new gTLD application. The challenger can file a public comment by September 26, 2012 (which was extended an additional 45 days from the original August 12, 2012), or file a formal objection by January 13, 2013. The objection filing period was built into the new gTLD program specifically to protect certain rights and interests. Anyone with standing may submit a formal objection on any one of four objection grounds:

  1. String Confusion (confusingly similar to existing gTLD or another sought after gTLD)
  2. Legal Rights (infringes existing legal rights of objector)
  3. Limited Public Interest (contrary to generally accepted legal norms of morality and public order)
  4. Community (significant portion of community to which gTLD string may be explicitly or implicitly targeted)

All objections received will move through the ICANN dispute resolution process, estimated to take approximately five months.

It goes without saying that with the unveiling of 1,930 new gTLD applications for various new domains, it is important for trademark owners to be aware of the program, the upcoming deadlines and how to protect against any potential infringement. Additional information can be found at the ICANN website at: http://newgtlds.icann.org