As 2013 begins, whether you have applied for a new global top level domain (gTLD) or are a brand owner waiting for the dust to settle, much remains up in the air. The new gTLDs continue to herald new opportunities for online branding and driving consumer traffic in new directions, considering that some believe that the .DOT portals present new search paradigms on the Internet. The first new gTLDs are planned to launch mid-2013 (not early 2013 as originally announced). There is an interesting article at http://www.thedomains.com/2012/12/26/our-list-of-the-first-80-non-idnbrand-new-gtlds-that-will-come-to-market/, projecting the initial new gTLDs to be released.
Regardless of which side of the fence you are on, the new gTLDs certainly portend the need to heighten brand protection and increase budgets to monitor and enforce brands online. That includes for defensive registrations and addressing new venues for infringement and cybersquatting. Developing a coordinated strategy for legal and marketing to implement will be key to economically seizing the opportunities enabled by the delegation of new gTLDS, while not drowning in defensive registrations and a flurry of cease-and-desist letters.
Though new brand protection mechanisms will be introduced by ICANN, they are untested. Process-wise, the Trademark ClearingHouse (TCH) will be a bright spot. For the first time, there will be an intersection as to the registration of trademarks and domain names, providing an enhanced rights mechanism for trademark owners. Though trademark owners will have to pay to record their trademarks at the TCH (approximately $150 per mark), trademarks in the TCH must be considered by registrars before a registration to a non-trademark holder can occur. Identifying trademarks in the TCH also allows the trademark holder to participate in “sunrise” registration periods, before registration is open to the general public.