ICANN launched its long-awaited Trade Mark Clearing House this week which is aimed at helping trademark owners protect their brands in the wake of the nearly 2,000 new url suffixes (also known as gTLDs) that will be launched this year.
As I discussed over the course of the last few years, here and on Business Insider, the new Generic Top Level Domains (gLTDs) are likely to stress trademark owners’ ability to monitor their online brands. For example, Apple will now be worrying about the possible registration of App.le, or Computers.apple, etc…
The Trade Mark Clearing House will allow brand owners to register their marks with the House which will then allow the owners priority registration for domain names matching their brands during the “sunrise” period — 30 days before a new gTLD goes live to the public. The services is slated to cost $95-150 per trademark record.
As I noted in my previous articles, I do not think the Clearing House will prove particularly effective for the vast majority of small to medium sized online startups who do not have millions of dollars to devote to protecting the various variations of their trademarks. Again, for example, registering APPLE with the Clearing House will only protect an owner against perfectly matching attempted registrations like Computers.apple, it will not protect the registrant against equally infringing (under trademark law) but non-identical registrations such as Computers.appled or mispellings (which are also possible infringements) such as Computers.appel.
This is all to say that only the largest companies (like Apple) are likely to receive any benefit from the Clearing House. This will also likely be the reason that traditional TLDs like .com and .net will continue to be viewed by consumers as the “official” TLD of any given registered company url — in this way an infringing gTLD will not be much of an infringement because consumers would be wary about its bona fides.
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