In fewer than nine months, the Internet is scheduled to begin a massive change. But it may not be a change for the better, many trademark owners fear.
The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), which oversees the Internet's operations, asserts that the plan to allow an almost unlimited number of new domains--which it approved in late June--is a great step forward.
The cost of applying for a TLD will be substantial. There will be various attorneys fees and other expenses plus a hefty application fee. The exact amount of this fee hasn't been determined yet, but some experts estimate it will be at least $100,000. Some say it could run as high as $500,000. What is clear is that the application fee will be nonrefundable, so if the application is denied, the applicant will lose a significant amount of money.
There are plenty of grounds for denying an application, even when the applicant meets ICANN's financial and technical criteria. Third parties can object that the proposed TLD violates either their legal rights or "public morality and order."
ICANN's plan poses challenges for trademark owners, but those challenges are manageable, according to many trademark experts. "For brand owners, the sky isn't falling," Steele says.