The name game

Are law firms missing a trick by sitting back on gTLDs?

In some quarters, the opening up of generic Top Level Domains (gTLDs), which basically gives firms the opportunity to buy descriptive domain names such as .legalexpert or .bestlawfirmintheworld, was predicted to be a damp squib.

That has proven to be wide of the mark, with the publication of almost 2,000 applications including some from the world’s biggest technology companies going head-to-head over domain names such as .app and .book.

The suffixes of internet addresses will no longer be restricted to the well-known existing ones such as .com and .org, and the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) is co-ordinating the expansion.

But it seems that law firms are taking the cautious approach to creating their own domains: The Lawyer has trawled through the 1,900-plus applications for a .links or a .dla or a .abs, but to no avail.

None of the magic circle have followed the lead of the media and tech giants BBC, Apple or Google, which view the opportunity to register several domain names as an ideal branding exercise.

And, disappointingly, the only applicants for the endings .law, .lawyer and .legal are savvy domain name holding companies that have put in hundreds of bids between them to snap up potentially profitable gTLDs.

Hogan Lovells partner David Taylor has compared the process to a “virtual land grab”, and hopes that mechanisms put in place by ICANN can protect “unscrupulous third parties” using associations with firms through gTLDs to take advantage of customers.

In an ominous warning to those who have sat back, Taylor claims that this opportunity will not come around again for several years, by which time the suffixes .blp and .nabarro, for example, may have been snapped up and well on their way to becoming a more established brand under a different guise.

He said those who have chosen to sit this one out may be watching nervously to see if it was the right decision. Either that, or they could end up paying a lot of money for the rights to their own brands.