attending the 48th
ICANN meeting in Buenos Aires, Argentina and there's a
slightly different feel compared to others I've been to.
As one lawyer I spoke to yesterday put it, in the past ICANN
was an opportunity for people to have their say about domain
name policy; sessions were well attended and making your view
heard seemed to be paramount.
At this meeting, though, it feels like much of the action is
taking place behind the scenes. There are meetings between gTLD
applicants, between registries and registrars and between
various providers of IP protection mechanisms. It's now about
business, rather than just talking.
The reason why is clear: after years of delay and
discussion, the new gTLDs are finally with us. The first four
new strings were
added last month, and Donuts – likely to be the
biggest operator of new gTLDs, with maybe 200 properties
launching a 60-day sunrise period for seven names next
more to follow in December.
According to ICANN, the number of new gTLDs in the root has
already doubled, with 24 added, including four in non-Roman
scripts. Among them are .camera, .sexy, .singles and .voyage. A
total of 960 gTLD applicants have been invited to sign
contracts, and 144 have already done so.
These were some of the figures published at an
update on the new gTLD programme yesterday. But the most
striking statistic for IP owners is that the number of trade
marks registered in the Trademark Clearinghouse so far is just
We'll learn more about the Clearinghouse later this week,
and I hope to be able to report further details, but that seems
like a pretty low number. There are millions of registered
trade marks in the world that are eligible. You have to have
your mark validated in the Clearinghouse to benefit from the
sunrise periods in any of the new gTLDs, as well as to be able
to use the trade mark claims service (and validation can take
Why have more trade mark owners not made use of the
Clearinghouse yet? People have many different answers to that
question – spanning ignorance, cost, wariness and the
limitations of the rules (particularly where similar domains
are concerned). It may also be true that some trade mark owners
have decided that other tools – such as the new URS
– mean they do not need to make use of the
Clearinghouse, or just that they are prepared to run the risk
of their trade marks being squatted in some of the new
But I expect that overriding all of these reasons is a
continuing suspicion about the new gTLD programme. Clearly
trade mark owners did not seek such a big expansion of the
domain name system (though remember that many brand owners have
applied to run gTLDs) and maybe some still want to believe that
it's not really happening.
Well, it is. And it's going to come quickly. If you don't at
least think about what you need to do to protect your brand
now, you can't complain if you are faced with dozens
cybersquatting cases over the next few years.