Historic expansion in gTLDs approved

The board of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the body responsible for the global coordination of domain names, has approved a recommendation that will dramatically expand the possibilities for new top-level domains (TLDs) in the generic domain name space.
At present, there are 21 generic TLDs, including '.com', '.org' and '.net'. The recommendation provides for the possibility to add an unlimited number of new TLDs. Any entity that meets the applicable criteria will be able to select and register its own TLD. It will be possible to register trademarks as TLDs (eg, '.disney' and '.toyota'), as well as generic words (eg, '.cars') or geographic indications (eg, '.london'). Applicants will have to demonstrate that they have the necessary technical abilities to operate a website, either by themselves or pursuant to an agreement with another party.
It is expected that only larger corporations and other entities will be prepared to make use of the new system, as the costs for registering the new TLDs are currently estimated to be around €100,000 to €350,000.
While the present system supports Roman characters only, the new system is intended to support other characters, such as Chinese and Cyrillic. This is an interesting feature for Asian companies, among others.
However, the new system will create challenges for trademark owners. The system does not provide for the automatic rejection of applications for TLDs consisting of trademarks belonging to third parties. However, trademark holders will be able to object to the registration of such TLDs under the applicable procedure. Therefore, trademark owners should consider monitoring applications for new TLDs. It remains to be seen how the issue of identical trademarks belonging to different corporations will be dealt with. For example, APPLE is both the trademark of a computer company and the service mark of a record company, but there is only one '.apple' TLD.
The plans were developed within the context of a consultation with the domain name industry, trademark attorneys, the business sector, internet users, governments and technicians. The new system represents a historic development in the internet world and will create new internet marketing opportunities.
The final implementation plan must be approved by the board of ICANN before the introduction of the new system. It is expected that the new system will begin operations in 2009.
Lisbet Andersen, Bech-Bruun, Copenhagen

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