Registries team up to launch three car-related new gTLDs

International

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) launched the application process for new generic top-level domains (gTLDs) in January 2012. The new gTLD programme will result in an unprecedented expansion of the Domain Name System. At the time of writing, over 630 new gTLDs have been delegated and approximately 400 have been launched.

However, while a handful of new gTLDs appear to be showing reasonable growth, the volume of domain name registrations across the new gTLD name space overall is far from impressive. As a result, a new aftermarket for new gTLD registries appears to have emerged.

The common method for the sale and purchase of gTLD registries is via auctions. The auction services provider Innovative Auctions has conducted these auctions thus far.

For example, Donuts, the company that operates the new gTLD ‘.reisen’ (meaning ‘travel’ in German), amongst many others, recently purchased ‘.reise’ (also meaning ‘travel’ in German) during the first auction of a live new gTLD. Donuts also operates ‘.voyage’ and ‘.viajes’, meaning ‘travel’ in French and Spanish respectively, which means that it now owns all four travel-related new gTLDs.

Of course new gTLD registries can also be acquired via private deals, like Google which recently sold its new gTLD ‘.car’ to Cars Registry Limited, a joint venture between two registries, namely UniRegistry - which owns over 20 new gTLDs including ‘.click’, ‘.link’ and ‘.photo’ - and XYZ.com LLC - which owns ‘.college’, ‘.rent’ and above all ‘.xyz’, the largest new gTLD with over 935,000 domain name registrations.

In a recent press release, Cars Registry Limited announced that it will launch three car-related new gTLDs in the fourth quarter of the year, namely ‘.car’, ‘.cars’ and ‘.auto’. It stated that "these new domain options are expected to be well received and adopted globally by the automotive industry, which is a cornerstone of internet commerce and economies around the world". According to Cars Registry Limited, "since the start of e-commerce in the 1990s, there has been a pent-up demand for an authoritative automotive namespace."

The ‘.cars’ and ‘.auto’ TLDs have already been delegated, while ‘.car’ is still in the pre-delegation testing phase. While the launch schedule is not known yet, Cars Registry Limited has already announced that these three new gTLDs will be available for registration to all without any restriction.

The joint venture of Cars Registry Limited is a new approach to the issue of consolidation in the new gTLDs. Rather than the sale or acquisition of a gTLD registry as an asset, this would appear to be a pooling of resources between potentially competing gTLD strings. It will be interesting to see what sales model is implemented and whether domain names will be sold in bundles across the three gTLDs.

Cars Registry Limited will not have the monopoly of car-related new gTLDs as there is also a new gTLD ‘.autos’ owned by another company, DERAutos LLC, a subsidiary of Dominion Enterprises, a leading marketing services company which has also applied for other new gTLDs. However, according to the application details as filed by DERAutos, this gTLD will offer domain name registration on a restricted basis, with domain names only being offered to Dominion's clients. Nevertheless, Dominion has reserved the right to offer domain names to third parties at a later date, dependent upon the results of an evaluation process of the initial launch of domain name registrations under ‘.autos’.

David Taylor and Laetitia Arrault, Hogan Lovells LLP, Paris

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