The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) will be issuing new generic top level domain names (gTLDs), like .sport or .hotel, to applicants later this year. Although the availability of generic top level domains is applauded by some because they will give companies another means to control their brand, others fear it will confuse consumers and create more venues for cybersquatting.
The deadline for objections to the new gTLDs is March 13, 2013.
The Domain Name System and Cybersquatting
Instead of memorizing a string of numbers to point to a website, the domain name system (DNS) allows us to point to websites using language that is more meaningful to us, like www.LAIPLA.net. DNS creates a logical hierarchical system. The top level domain name is at the top of the naming hierarchy and appears on the right most section of a domain name, for example, here it would be .net. The next level is the second-level domain name, LAIPLA.
By registering a gTLD an entity will be controlling its own registry, subject to an agreement with ICANN. This could make it more difficult for trademark holders to protect their marks against cybersquatting because it will be challenging for them to police their marks for every new domain that is registered with the gTLD. There are about 1900 active applications for gTLDs. The list of applications is available on ICANN’s webste. However, if the costs for registering a domain with the new gTLDs are substantially higher than the fees that cybersquatters are accustomed to, it is possible that the economics will not make sense for cybersquatters.
Grounds for Objections
There are four grounds to object to a gTLD, including string confusion, legal rights, limited public interest, and a community objection. A string confusion objection applies when the applied for gTLD creates a likelihood of confusion with an existing TLD or another applied for gTLD. A legal rights objection applies when the applied for gTLD infringes the legal rights of the objector. A limited public interest objection applies when the applied for gTLD would violate the accepted legal norms of morality and public order of international law. Finally, the community objection applies when there is substantial opposition to the applied for gTLD from the community to which the gTLD is targeted, and this objection must be brought by a member of this community.
Objecting parties should file with the following organizations, depending on what ground they are objecting: The International Centre for Dispute Resolution for string confusion objections; The Arbitration and Mediation Center for the World Intellectual Property Organization for legal rights Objections; The International Center of Expertise of the International Chamber of Commerce for limited public Interest and community objections.