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A Sigh of Relief for Brand Owners …Not So .Fast

Elisa Cooper

All indications from the ICANN meetings in Seoul are that significant delays for the release of new gTLDs (Generic Top Level Domains) are expected.

According to Rod Beckstrom, ICANN's CEO, new gTLDs will be made available when, "we've adequately addressed the important issues that are on the table." These important issues include efforts to address malicious conduct, root scaling, economic analysis, trademark protections, and vertical separation as related to the new gTLDs.

Consequently, no timelines for the launch of new gTLDs have been released. ICANN had most recently stated that the application period would begin in the second half of 2010.

While companies who have been building business plans around the launch of new gTLDs are up in arms, brand owners should take comfort in knowing that additional work will be completed to ensure that adequate rights protection mechanisms are implemented prior to the launch of new gTLDs.

However, while it looks like the gTLD Express is slowing down a bit so that adequate protections can be incorporated into the process, the IDN ccTLD Train (Internationalized Country Code Top Level Domain Names) is full steam ahead and nearing its destination. After years of research, development and market demand, starting on November 16th, ccTLD registry managers will be allowed to submit applications to operate TLDs in native character sets representing their respective country or territory names. To date, 25 countries including China, Japan and the Russian Federation have expressed interest in participating.

Although brand owners may not have to worry about the launch of new gTLDs next year, understanding how, where, and what to register in these new ccTLD IDNs will present a host of new issues — many of which have been overshadowed until now by the anticipated launch of the new gTLDs.

As with similar types of launches in the past, many of these ccTLD registries may allow for special "Sunrise" and "Grandfather" periods so that owners of trademarks and existing IDNs are given priority over others to register exact matches in the new offerings. While registration periods for these new IDN ccTLDs will likely not occur before the second half of next year, brand owners should consider preparing now by reviewing international trademark portfolio holdings and identifying important brands that should be promoted and protected.

By Elisa Cooper, SVP Marketing and Policy at Brandsight, Inc.
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