Domain-name.revolution? Generic top-level domains and intellectual property

By Deborah Rider

In 2011, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) — the professional body for domain name registration — launched the new generic top-level domain (gTLD) programme to permit the introduction of new top-level domains on the internet. The move, which has attracted much publicity, will allow web addresses to end in a whole range of new domains (such as .app, .sport, .accountant) beyond the likes of .com, .co.uk and .net.

The application window opened in early 2012 and ICANN has revealed that more than 1,900 applications have been received for new gTLDs to become available subject to an initial evaluation of their suitability. Most of the new gTLDs are anticipated to go live towards the end of this year but some may be launched within the next few months.

What does this mean for existing rights owners? Besides the new marketing opportunities presented, one immediate consequence is that the explosion in new gTLDs is likely to create an increase in the potential for ‘cyber-squatting’. To address this concern, ICANN has put in place safeguards designed to reduce the potential for infringement of a legitimate intellectual property owner’s rights…

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