New Zealand: Did you know... that you can now apply to register and run your own '.[domain]'?

Last Updated: 28 January 2012
Article by Ben Cain

This applies to new generic top level domains (gTLD's) i.e new versions of '.com' such as '.law' or '.biotech'. But should you register and what is the cost vs benefit to your business?

In July last year, we reported that from 12 January 2012 to 12 April 2012, anyone would be able to apply to ICANN* (the organisation that administers the international domain name system) to register new generic top level domains (gTLDs), in other words new versions of '.com' such as '.law' or '.biotech'.

Applications are now being accepted1. If you are considering applying, you should consider two issues: first, whether in fact you should apply, and, second, if you do apply, the procedure and timetable for processing your application2.

Should you apply?

The first, most important, point to understand is that applying for a new gTLD is not like applying to register a new domain name using, for example, the suffix '.com'. Applying to register a new gTLD is in fact applying to operate a registry for a new domain suffix whereby, if your application is successful, you can issue domain names using that new domain suffix.

As an owner3 of a new gTLD you may choose to operate the new gTLD registry in one or both of two ways:

  1. To register domain names for your business's exclusive use - for example, if we successfully applied to register '.law' then we might register and exclusively use 'jamesandwells.law' and/or 'jaws.law'; and/or
  2. To entice other businesses apply to you to register a domain name with your new gTLD - for example, for example, if we successfully applied to register '.law' we might establish a separate business unit to issue '.law' domain names to other law firms around the world.

The objective behind each approach is the same but different: the same to the extent that both are intended to generate revenue (or for non-profit community or cause organisations to attract attention to themselves), but different in how that objective is achieved with the first a marketing initiative and the latter a business model.

The second point to consider is the cost vs benefit to your business.

In terms of cost, as our July 2011 article stated applications attract a US$185,000 application fee and, if approved, new registry owners will pay a minimum of $25,000 per year to maintain their registry.

Assuming that the cost is not an issue, the next question is, as with every commercial decision involving significant capital expenditure, 'will I get a return on my investment?' - ie what is the benefit?

The answer to this question is, in general terms, most likely one of the following three:

  1. If you are intending to operate a registry for the new gTLD, inviting others to register specific domain names with you, the answer is potentially yes (depending on the strength of your gTLD).
  2. If you are a large corporate with a significant global brand presence, and you want to (for example) segment the online marketing of your goods by category (eg. cameras.sony, tv.sony and audio.sony) the answer is potentially yes provided you develop a cohesive strategy to run the registry.
  3. If you are a business with primarily a local or country-specific focus then the answer is potentially no as your investment dollars may be better spent on more targeted local activity.

Procedure and timetable for processing applications

The following is a brief outline of the process and estimated timetable for applications.**

  • 29 March 2012: Registration closes: in the online TLD Application System (TAS), an applicant must first register, and then apply. 29 March 2012 is the last date for new user registrations, to meet the 12 April 2012 application deadline.
  • 12 April 2012: Application window closes, processing and evaluating the applications begins.
  • 1 May 2012: "Reveal Day": ICANN will publicly post all new gTLD suffixes (or 'character strings') that have been applied for, and who applied for each.
  • 1 May 2012 - 30 June 2012: Application comment process, open to anyone interested.
  • 1 May 2012 - approx. 30 November 2012: Objection period, open to anyone with grounds to object to any of the new gTLD applications.
  • 12 June 2012 - 12 November 2012: Initial evaluation, conducted by various evaluation panels who consider such factors as whether an applied-for gTLD is confusingly similar to an existing gTLD, or even another applicant's gTLD and whether the applicant is 'fit and proper' to operate a registry.
  • 12 November 2012: Results of initial evaluation posted. If an application failed, the applicant may request a period extended evaluation - the last day to make such a request is 29 November 2012.
  • 30 November 2012: Delegation begins of gTLDs that have passed evaluation, or later phases begin for complex applications.

Closing comment

If you believe ICANN, there are potentially significant benefits to be gained from operating a new gTLD registry. Given the significant application and operating costs, however, it will be interesting to see what the level of take-up is by those organisations and communities whom ICANN has targeted with this initiative.

For those of us involved in domain name dispute resolution, it will also be interesting to see what new level of domain name squatting may eventuate.

We will see.

Footnotes

1Refers to the status of a patent application which has been examined by the receiving office (in New Zealand, the Intellectual Property Office of New Zealand or IPONZ) and given conditional approval. The application will then typically be advertised in the Patent Office Journal for a brief period to enable third parties to lodge an objection to grant (known as an opposition).
2In most jurisdictions patent applications are subjected to an examination process to determine whether the subject matter is novel and inventive. The terms "application", "pending" or "patent application" are used to describe the status of the application up to grant.
3A legal term to describe a person entitled to make an application for a patent. In New Zealand this includes any person claiming to be the true and first inventor, the assignee of the inventor, or the legal representative of a deceased inventor or his/her assignee.

*Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers
**Further information can be found at ICANN

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

James and Wells is the 2010 New Zealand Law Awards winner of the Intellectual Property Law Award for excellence in client service.

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