IP: Roadblocks, detours and dead ends on the top-level domain journey

Navigating the gTLD application process can lead to varying results

For some applicants for new generic Top-Level Domains (gTLDs), the journey from application to delegation may not be quite as easy as a Sunday drive, but it likely will be fairly uneventful. The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) expects an estimated 90 percent of applications will need to answer at least one clarifying question from the Initial Review committees, most of which likely will focus on financial consideration, including letters of credit, security policy and independent security assessments. Pending satisfactory answers to these questions, however, “straightforward” applications (those not subject to extended evaluation, formal objection or string contention proceedings) would proceed to the delegation phase without any significant detours or delays along the way. Many other applicants, including the largest players in the process, however, may meet multiple roadblocks, detours and delays—some anticipated and others perhaps unexpected—on the road to delegation. And at least 25 percent (and probably significantly more) will arrive at a dead end from which no alternate route exists.


Limited public interest objections, available to both applicants and nonapplicants, assert that the applied-for string is contrary to generally accepted legal norms of morality and public order recognized under international law. The objection is subject to a “quick look” review to filter out frivolous or abusive objections. Finally, community objections are available only to established institutions associated with clearly defined communities, and assert that substantial opposition exists to a gTLD application from a significant percentage of the community. This objection is not limited to community-based applications. For example, of the eight applications for .MUSIC, only two are designated as community-based. As long as an objector meets the standing requirement, however, it could file an objection against all eight of the applications, the six standard applications, as well as the two community-based applications.

While lodging an objection involves a significant commitment of resources and should not be undertaken lightly, the process can secure the denial or withdrawal of an application. Applicants have three options: reach a settlement that results in withdrawal of either the objection or the application, withdraw the application or file a response and enter the dispute resolution process. Having invested a minimum of $185,000 in the gTLD application, applicants likely will be reticent to withdraw their applications, yet the additional time and money required for responding to objections can be significant, particularly for companies with multiple applications or with applications that draw objections from more than one party.

Contributing Author

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Daniel Frohling

Daniel D. Frohling is a partner in the Chicago office of Loeb & Loeb LLP, where he leads the firm’s gTLD Development and...

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Contributing Author

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Melanie Howard

Melanie Howard, senior counsel with Loeb & Loeb LLP in the firm’s Los Angeles office, focuses her practice on intellectual property law, including litigation, counseling...

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