Legal Concerns Loom with ICANN’s Upcoming gTLDs

ICANN’s controversial decision to open up the market for domain name endings is about to get even stickier as the registration process nears its deadline. According to numerous analysts, there will ...
Legal Concerns Loom with ICANN’s Upcoming gTLDs
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ICANN’s controversial decision to open up the market for domain name endings is about to get even stickier as the registration process nears its deadline. According to numerous analysts, there will be an outburst of legal issues after the new generic top-level domain (gTLD) applicants are revealed to the public.

The application window was scheduled to close April 12th, but it was extended after a technical glitch was detected in the TAS system. In an effort to take “the most conservative approach” to protect its applicants and their data, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) shut down its TAS system last Thursday when the issue was found. It was scheduled to reopen today but has since said it needs more time. An update is expected to be announced no later than Friday, April 20th.

Once the application process is over, as many as 1,000 new domain name endings could be introduced. ICANN’s decision to open the floodgates on gTLDs has gone down in history as one of the most dramatic shakeups the Internet has seen, since it could greatly increase the existing 22 or so extensions that consumers are currently accustomed to.

Do you see ICANN’s move as a positive or a negative for businesses? We’d love to know.

Joe Luthy, Global Marketing Director at Melbourne IT Joe Luthy, the Global Marketing Director for Melbourne IT, told WebProNews that the new gTLDs would cover many different industries. He assisted more than 150 applicants through the registration process and said the diversity of the applications was unexpected.

“It’s gonna be surprising, we believe, whenever the full list is revealed in May,” he pointed out.

Although ICANN’s “Reveal Day” isn’t scheduled until the end of this month, Luthy said companies should already begin preparing for the news. He recommends that businesses start identifying their own brands and trademarks to see not only what rights they have, but also what they want to have in the future.

“Right now, companies – whether they’ve applied or not applied – really need to start thinking about what’s important to them going forward,” he said.

One issue that could pose a problem for a company is if an applicant has filed a name 
“confusingly similar” to its own. Another potential problem could be in the applicant’s intent of use.

If a problem does arise, ICANN has allowed for a 60-day window, in which concerned parties can comment or object to an application. With infringement issues, a company has 7 months to file a formal objection to stop the application from going forward until the concerns are addressed or the application is withdrawn.

“There’s going to be probably a lot of contention because there’s a number of companies out there applying for the same generic,” said Luthy.

As he explained to us, several companies are fighting over the .eco domain ending and are looking at legal action even before the applicants have been released. Other similar issues are expected since endings such as .ritz could be used in a variety of ways.

These concerns, and others, have brought ICANN’s move a lot of criticism, especially from the advertising community. In the below interview, Dan Jaffe, the Executive Vice President of Government Relations for the Association of National Advertisers (ANA), told WPN that ICANN’s move was both “reckless” and “premature.”

“Unfortunately in the existing system, there are serious problems of cyber squatting, typo squatting, phishing, the placement of malware, [and] the inability to find out who, in fact, really owns Internet addresses,” he said. “We’re afraid unless these types of problems are resolved that suddenly opening the top-level domains to as many as 1,000 new top-level domains, which is a thousand percent increase over the existing systems, it would be very, very dangerous both to businesses and consumers. ”

While Luthy believes legal conflicts will ensue after ICANN’s “Reveal Day,” he said most of them would come from the generic side since it is very competitive. Most brand owners, on the other hand, are simply trying to promote internal brands and services.

ICANN has said this move would offer more opportunities to both consumers and brands. While time will tell whether or not this will, in fact, happen, Luthy is confident in ICANN’s decision.

“Every innovation we’ve seen on the Internet has opened up a lot of opportunities [and] created a lot of new businesses,” he said. “I think we’re gonna see the same thing with the new TLDs.”

The new gTLDs are expected to begin appearing late next year. ICANN has also said it will have future application windows, although it has not given any specific dates for them.

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