Following some delays in the application process, the window to apply for a new generic Top-Level Domain (gTLD) finally closed on Wednesday, May 30, 2012. At the time the window closed, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the steward of the naming and numbering system of the Internet, confirmed that it had received "just over 1,900 applications" for new gTLDs. That number is subject to grow after payment for all application fees are reconciled, with a likely final count of over 2,000 applications – significantly more than the 500 to 1,000 applications ICANN had anticipated before the application process began. With the close of the application window, ICANN's New gTLD Program is now moving with full steam ahead.

Updated New gTLD Program Timeline

On May 29, 2012, ICANN published its latest New gTLD Program timeline with revised "target dates." Most notably, the "Big Reveal" (when ICANN intends to publish all of the applied-for gTLDs) will take place on June 13, 2012, commencing both the 60-day public comment period and the formal objection period. The three-week window for the batching process was also announced as occurring between June 8 and June 28, 2012. The complete list of target dates announced is as follows:



May 30, 2012

Application window closes

June 8, 2012

Digital Archery Batching process begins

June 13, 2012

Announcement of applied-for domain names ("Reveal Day")

  • Application comment period begins
  • Formal objection period begins

June 24-29, 2012

ICANN's 44th Public Meeting; Prague, Czech Republic

June 28, 2012

Digital Archery Batching process ends

July 11, 2012

Digital Archery Batching results announced

July 12, 2012

Initial evaluations begin

August 12, 2012

Application comment period ends

October 14-19, 2012

ICANN's 45th Public Meeting; Toronto, Canada

While this schedule does not provide a target for the completion of the initial evaluations for the first batch of applications, nor does it provide an end date for the formal objection period, it does provide an indication of what applicants and other interested parties can expect over the next few months in terms of program progression.

Digital Archery Batching Process

Due to the capacity of the review panels, ICANN evaluates new gTLD applications in sequential batches, rather than evaluating all applications simultaneously; the first batch will contain approximately 500 applications, while subsequent batches will contain approximately 400. In order to avoid subjectivity when sorting applications into batches, ICANN has approved a selection process whereby batching priority will be established by both applicant preference and participation in an online "game of digital archery." In the digital archery process, participating applicants will preselect a target date and time, and then attempt to log in to an electronic interface as close as possible to that time. Applicants with lower differential times will be batched earlier, with some calibration to account for geographic diversity. The digital archery period is scheduled to open on June 8, 2012 and close on June 28, 2012—after ICANN publicly reveals all applied-for gTLD strings on its June 13, 2012 reveal day.

Public Reveal Day

On June 13, 2012, ICANN plans to publish all of the new gTLD strings that have been sought. As there will likely be well over 2,000 new gTLD applications—potentially representing a very significant change to the domain name landscape—it is clear that the most important next step for new gTLD applicants and non-applicants alike is to determine an appropriate brand enforcement strategy as the launch of new gTLDs progresses. Due to the large number of applications, brand owners will likely need to move quickly in the days and weeks following Reveal Day in order to set priorities for potential actions against third-party applications of concern.

Accordingly, on June 14, 2012, Steptoe's Intellectual Property practice is hosting a complimentary webinar titled Brand Protection and Advocacy in the Evolving Internet to discuss top-level enforcement mechanisms available to concerned brand owners during the new gTLD evaluation process and explore strategies for brand owners to increase their involvement in Internet policy advocacy activities and ensure their interests are represented in the evolving domain name space.

Trademark Clearinghouse Developments

When a myriad of new gTLDs begin to go live next year, trademark enforcement on the second-level of an expanded domain name system will begin with the trademark clearinghouse—an "information repository, offering authentication and validation services for trademark data" that will support rights protection mechanisms in the new gTLD space and replace the need for trademark holders to register their marks in many databases as new gTLDs are launched. ICANN recently announced that it is working with International Business Machines (IBM) of Belgium to administer the database and Deloitte Enterprise Risk Services to administer the authentication of trademarks and validation or proof-of-use services.

In addition, ICANN published a Preliminary Cost Model clarifying costs of the trademark clearinghouse for both rights holders and new gTLD registries. Rights holders can expect to pay less than USD $150 per trademark submitted and annual renewal fees at a percentage of that initial price. Registries can expect to pay a set-up fee between USD $7,000 and $10,000 per new gTLD for access to the Clearinghouse database.

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