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Thinking of Applying for a Truly Generic TLD, but Restricting Ownership to a Single Registrant?

Elisa Cooper

As it's coming down to brass tacks and companies are now seriously considering applying for their own .Brand Top-Level Domain (TLD), questions about whether to also apply for a truly generic TLD keep popping up. Many large corporations want to know whether it's even possible to apply for something like .Shoes AND to restrict registrations so that only a single specified registrant is allowed. After all, for the right company it seems that something like .Shoes could be a valuable namespace — short, easy to remember, and easy to spell.

The short answer is YES — any organization can apply for any string, and can employ any set of eligibility requirements it desires. ICANN is not evaluating applications based on whether applicants have a right to a particular string nor are they judging whether allowing a company to own a particular namespace (albeit a generic term) is fair or in the best interest of the Internet community.

However, just because it is allowed does not make it a safe bet.

All new gTLD applications will be subject to a 7-month objection period in which established institutions associated with defined communities are eligible to file Community Objections. It should be noted that the Independent Objector also has the ability to submit Community Objections. And of course, the GAC (Governmental Advisory Committee) can always object to any TLD application for any reason.

The question then becomes: which organization would be able to successfully object to something like .Shoes? Would it be AAFA (American Apparel and Footwear Association), the WSA (World Shoe Association) or some other institution and would they even meet the criteria set forth in the Applicant Guidebook for standing to object to .Shoes?

And what if the community that has standing to submit a Community Objection does not have the funds or resources for filing such an objection? After all, the fees for filing a Community Objection with the International Chamber of Commerce are expected to run around $60,000 (which of course does not include costs associated with the actual preparation of the objection).

On the other hand, maybe it would make sense for a shoe manufacturer or large retailer to apply for .Shoes in hopes that they may fly under the radar, and/or that any organization that might have standing to object just doesn't have the resources to make it happen.

It is a gamble either way. If a company doesn't apply, they could lose an opportunity to own a valuable piece of Internet real estate, but if a company does apply they might be faced with Community Objections, harsh criticism and public outcry, or even anticompetitive lawsuits.

There is no doubt that it's a difficult decision to make.

That said, companies should already be working with their own trade organizations should the need arise for a Community Objection to be filed in the instance that a competitor has submitted an application for a generic term.

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