Since ICANN announced that it would expand the universe of
internet top level domains, many rights holders have expressed
scepticism about the programme. Supporters of the new gTLDs
highlight the new marketing opportunities, while many brands
saw the new top level domains as vectors for trade mark
squatters. Still, several prominent brand owners have embraced
the new gTLDs,
Canon and the
Australian Football League being two examples. It is safe
to assume, however, that even the IP teams for those two
companies are mindful of the challenges posed by the new
An untapped market?
response to ICANN's new gTLDs have been mixed
For rights owners, however, the one especially interesting
opportunity is the ability to have non-Latin alphabet domains.
While some have openly questioned the value offered by domains
like .NINJA and .COOL, a more interesting argument has been
that non-English speaking internet users have been underserved,
and finally allowing non-Latin alphabet addresses will help to
From a brand owners’ perspective, this makes a
lot of intuitive sense; despite the proliferation of English,
Arabic domain should help to improve mark engagement by
removing the language obstacles standing between the company
and these large groups of consumers.
This should be true even where a brand’s
English name is in use in a non-English speaking market. In
mainland China or even Hong Kong, where English is still an
official language, it is
not uncommon for consumers to be much more familiar with a
Chinese name of an international brand, even if that
Chinese name is not officially sanctioned by the company.
Not here yet
However, the data from the Trademark Clearinghouse (TMCH)
does not show a lot of interest in what is supposed to be a
brave new world of consumer engagement. The TMCH is the service
run by Deloitte and IBM which allows brand owners to register
their marks in the TMCH’s database. Once verified,
the brand owner is entitled to extra protections, such as
notification of when another party tries to register its brand
as well as priority
to obtain a domain name with that mark during a
gTLD’s sunrise period.
Presumably, those with brands that they want to protect
would register with the TMCH. However, according to the most recent
data from the TMCH, a little over 23,000 marks have been
registered. Of those, only about 850 use non-Latin alphabet
characters. Chinese is by far the most prominent, with 533
registered at the TMCH. This means that, despite the growing
importance of Chinese consumers to the world economy, only 2.2%
of the marks in the TMCH are in Chinese.
It is unclear at this point why this is the case. Some
suggest that it may be a matter of awareness of the TMCH or
even the availability of Chinese language domains. According to
one source, ICANN believes this may be the issue, and will be
launching a Chinese language site for the TMCH in a few weeks
at the .在线 (dot online in Chinese) gTLD.
However, there is also the possibility that brand owners are
not showing much interest (at this point at least) in the
foreign language gTLDs. They may, for example, believe that
having an English language web address gives them a strong
enough presence. Still, it would reason that even if a brand
owner does not plan on aggressively marketing a Chinese or
Arabic language domain address, it may still wish to use the
TMCH to monitor other addresses using its non-alphabet marks.
After all, at this point it is almost rote advice that foreign
brands need to be
vigilant about protecting their Chinese language
What do you think? Why aren’t there more
non-Latin alphabet marks in the TMCH? Are rights holders just
not using the Clearinghouse, or is the demand for these new
addresses not quite there yet?