Tim Lince

The fear of managing and policing the hundreds of new gTLDs has long been a concern for brand owners. As the number of registrations approaches 2.5 million, and with ICANN announcing preparations for the next round of applications, we undertook research that reveals the different approaches brands are taking with new generic TLDs and geographic TLDs. And in both types, domain hijackers appear to be capitalising.

Our research focused on the top 50 most valuable brands as revealed on the Brand Finance Global 500 list, as well as a selection of fashion brands and Apple products that are commonly domain hijacked. We looked at the top two generic TLDs to date (‘.xyz’ with 524,000 registrations and ‘.club’ with 109,000) and the top two geographic TLDs (‘.berlin’ with 139,000 registrations and ‘.london’ with 41,000) to see what domains have been registered related to the selected brand names. Our searches were for exact matches so didn’t look at variations or the brand name alongside other terms.

The results (outlined below) show that with the two generic TLDs, over half of the over 70 brand names we looked are registered by private individuals that appear not to be associated with the company. By contrast, with the two geographic TLDs, less than a quarter have been registered by private individuals – suggesting that brands appear to be paying more attention to the geographic TLDs. By way of example, McDonalds has registered both ‘mcdonalds.berlin’ and ‘mcdonalds.london’, but have seen ‘mcdonalds.xyz’ and ‘mcdonalds.club’ registered by private individuals. Calvin Klein too has registered both geographic TLDs, but private individuals have registered the ‘.xyz’ and ‘.club’ domains.

Some other observations:

  • Only 11 of the 71 brands (15%) in our research have registered across all four domains (or have them appear on the block/collision list): Apple, Google, Microsoft, Amazon, BMW, Shell, Siemens, iPhone, Rolex, Chanel and Hermes.
  • 56 of the 71 brands (79%) have at least one of their brand-related domains registered by a private individual that do not appear to be associated with the brand.
  • 37 (52%) of the 71 brands have at least two registered by private individuals - suggesting that, despite the popularity of these gTLDs, over half of the brands will have to take defensive moves if they want to regain lost domains.
  • In the two generic TLDs, 4% of the domains are still available for registration, compared to 29%  in the geo-TLDs. A sign that third-party registrants are looking more towards generics when registering brand terms?

Of course, as with all research, there are caveats. It’s worth bearing in mind that the two generic TLDs we studied have more registrations in total that the two geographic TLDs (540,000 versus 180,000), so we are not comparing like-for-like levels of activity. Additionally, companies may have intentionally targeted geo-TLDs and other sector-specific TLDs because these will actually be used by the brands, while they perhaps don’t see the benefit in a ‘.club’ or ‘.xyz’ registration (instead being happy to wait and see how these are used before deciding whether they need to take action). The figures are worth scrutiny though as they do give a sense of registration patterns, as well as the strategies employed, and potential problems faced, by brand owners during the ongoing gTLD rollout.

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The table below is the full list, including the country of origin of private individuals who have registered the domains according to the whois information. Further down is summary data of the full list and also a pie chart comparing the two generic TLDs ('.xyz' and '.club') and the two geographic TLDs ('.berlin' and '.london').

Summary of results:

Summary graphs (generic TLD versus geographic TLD):

Source: Nic.whois for respective strings. Two letter brand names removed from top 50. Data correct at the time of publication.

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