Web-Domain Plan Launches This Week -- Are You Prepared?

What to Know as ICANN Opens Application Process

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Despite heavy opposition from some members of Congress and the Association of National Advertisers, among others, the Internet Corp. for Assigned Names and Numbers on Jan. 12 will begin accepting applications from businesses and other groups to create and operate pieces of internet infrastructure known as generic top-level domains, or gTLDs. These can cover everything from .facebook to .lawyers. Here's what brands need to know about the process of buying one -- or protecting their current brand assets:

Prepare to pony up
To buy a top-level domain, plan on spending at least $500,000, including the initial application fee and technology costs, according to Alexa Raad, former CEO of the .org registry and current CEO of the consultancy Architelos. That makes it even more important to consider whether you have a real business case for the new gTLD.

Be proactive about protection
Register your brand with ICANN's trademark clearinghouse. With that registration, a brand such as .pepsi won't have to apply for and purchase the gTLD version of its name if it doesn't want to use it.

Anticipate competition for your name
In cases where a brand only has trademark rights in a specific industry (say, Delta Air Lines vs. Delta Faucet), both parties could make the case for the gTLD -- in this case, .delta. If the two parties can't come to a resolution on their own, the gTLD will be put up for auction. Jeff Ernst, a principal analyst at Forrester Research, expects some gTLDs to fetch more than $1 million at auction.

Watch the April 12 deadline
The application period closes April 12, and two weeks after, ICANN will publish information about every application it received. Starting in May, companies will have the opportunity to object to any new gTLDs they feel infringe on their trademarks.

Create a policing strategy for second-level domains
This is the section of a domain name before the dot. Trademark holders who have registered with the clearinghouse get first crack at purchasing second-level domains on new gTLDs (pepsi.soda, for example). The clearinghouse registration will notify trademark holders if another party buys a second-level domain that infringes on the trademark holder's legal rights.

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