There was a time when companies only concerned themselves
with the ".coms" and ".nets" of the world
as part of their trade-mark and domain name strategies. But
now, with specialized generic top-level domain names (gTLDs)
like ".travel" and ".pro," it may be time
for companies to re-examine their domain name portfolios.
Indeed, with the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and
Numbers (ICANN) moving forward with the potentially dramatic
expansion of gTLDs, this re-examination may become more
The ubiquitous "dot-something" is part of the
Internet's domain name system (or DNS) that allows
users to refer to website domain names (such as
"www.mccarthy.ca") rather than cumbersome numeric
Internet Protocol addresses assigned to each computer on the
Internet. Along with the 20 gTLDs now in existence, somewhere
close to 260 other top-level domains currently exist, including
some 240 country-code TLDs (each a ccTLD).
In August 2007, ICANN's Generic Names Supporting
Organization tabled its final report titled Introduction of
New Generic Top-Level Domains. The document includes a
series of recommendations which, if implemented, could open the
way for a large number of new gTLDs. In particular, the report
recommends that all applicants for new gTLD registries should
be evaluated against transparent and predictable criteria that
would be available to the applicants prior to initiating the
process. Upon full implementation of these recommendations,
technical and financial resources could very well be the most
significant restraints in the granting of new gTLDs. This would
greatly expand the potential for new gTLDs.
To demonstrate the importance of top-level domain names, it
may be helpful to look at the experiences of the tiny nations
of Tuvalu and the Federated States of Micronesia. Through the
happenstance of naming conventions, these two countries have
gained a disproportionately high strategic value for certain
media companies. Tuvalu has been given the ccTLD of
".tv" and the Federated States of Micronesia has been
given ".fm." These ccTLDs have brought in tens of
millions of dollars in licensing fees from third-party
registrars otherwise unconnected with the two countries.
McCarthy Tétrault Notes:
There is little doubt that some of the new gTLDs will catch
on and that many others will fizzle. However, in
today's reality of continued cyber-squatting and the
growing sophistication of online fraud, companies should start
to consider the implications of a world with hundreds instead
of dozens of gTLDs. The decisions as to which domain names to
register and which processes to implement to deal with
potential trade-mark or trade-name infringers will become even
more important. Companies should expect some uncertainty and
potential growing pains to come with the future expansion, but
with proper planning and expertise, these risks can be managed.
Ultimately, the new gTLDs may even provide further
opportunities for entrepreneurs.
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.
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