Imagine distinguishing your company from others on the Internet by using a web address ending with your business name, instead of the common .com or .net endings. Interested businesses may soon do so by applying to register their own top-level domains (TLD) during a Jan. 12, 2012 through April 12, 2012 application period administered by ICANN.
A top-level domain is the text to the right of the “dot” in a domain name, e.g. “.com” and it serves as the root from which a nearly unlimited number of domain names may spring. The upcoming application process will allow successful applicants to establish their brand, their company name or other terms of interest as a TLD, and then build and administer an array of domain names from that TLD. For example, Apple Inc. could establish www.ipad.apple, www.iphone.apple, www.itunes.apple, etc. by registering “apple” as a TLD.
For companies that do not wish to pursue a TLD application, their concerns may turn to brand protection on the Internet due to the upcoming proliferation of new TLDs and associated domain names. The good news for brand owners with concerns about infringement is that individuals and sole proprietors are not eligible for a TLD. Moreover, the financial and operational costs of establishing a TLD are clearly prohibitive for your run-of-the-mill domain name cyber-squatter.
In addition, third parties may use a new ICANN dispute resolution procedure to object to any TLD application that infringes their brand or improperly attempts to reserve an industry-related word. ICANN will publish the basics of all pending applications at ICANN's website so interested parties may monitor pending TLD applications for trademark conflicts. Third parties will have a period of months during which they may file objections against any TLD that is thought to damage their rights and interests.