Trevor Little

This week sees the launch of a month-long education campaign about new generic top-level domains (gTLDs). Coming hot on the heels of the television advertising promoting ‘pre-reservations’ to the general public, is the tipping point of wider awareness?

While WTR has reported extensively on ICANN’s new gTLDs expansion, with the trademark community an active voice in the programme’s development, general awareness of new gTLDs remains relatively low. However, according to a public opinion survey published by FairWinds Partners earlier this summer, consumers are open to the gTLD concept even though they remain a largely unknown and abstract concept. Therefore, education is key – for both the consumers and businesses.

On Wednesday Tom Marino, vice chairman of the US House Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property and the Internet, will kick off a month-long education campaign about new gTLDs sponsored by Coalition Against Domain Name Abuse (CADNA) and the Council of Better Business Bureaus (BBB).

In addition to raising public awareness about the upcoming expansion, the campaign will also explore the dangers for businesses and outline how consumers can protect themselves against online fraud. CADNA president Josh Bourne told WTR: “Tomorrow’s event will mark the launch of the ‘Know Your Net’ gTLD public awareness campaign to teach businesses, internet users, and policymakers about the impact of cybersquatting and how to safely navigate the new internet space. This campaign is about pushing out education and online safety tips that businesses can both learn from and make available to their audiences; cybersecurity reports that measure the real impact of cybersquatting; and businesses big and small sharing their stories about cybersquatting and the available solutions. Our goal is to help business do its part to make sure the launch of new gTLDs is done as safely possible – and we will encourage policymakers to do what they can to support businesses and consumers as well.

Writing on the BBB website, Bourne notes that the campaign accompanies efforts to “ensure that federal law works to deter both hardened cybercriminals and casual domain name grabbers. Through our research and experience, we know that traditional defensive registration and trademark enforcement strategies aren’t doing the job. Relevant federal law (Anti-cybersquatting Consumer Protection Act, or ACPA) needs to be strengthened to offer business and consumers more protection from domain name cybersquatting”.

In the blog, he notes that global business spent over $16 million during a two-month sunrise period to block 82,000 domains corresponding to their trademarks in the ‘.xxx’ gTLD – arguing: “If businesses register as aggressively in all of the new ‘open’ gTLDs, they will be forced to spend almost $10 billion. Clearly, that is a non-starter. Stronger cybersquatting laws are essential to bridging that gap.”

The awareness campaign follows the launch, last week, of what appears to be the first consumer television advertising campaign aimed at marketing new gTLDs. On the same night, WTR staff members watching television stations on both sides of the Atlantic were alerted to the possibility of pre-reserving over 700 new domains courtesy of registrar 1and1. The company is pitching new gTLDs with the hook that, if you previously failed to obtain the domain you want (or obtained insufficient protection) in existing TLDs like ‘.com’, that you can “now catch up”.

For a number of years the online expansion has been a hot issue for many industry groups, while wider awareness has lagged behind. Perhaps this month is when that starts to change.   

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