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Turning a corner on the new gTLDs

Amidst the controversy about the dot-sucks domain, some brand owners appear to be seeing the new gTLDs as more than just another frontier to defend

Vox Populi engaged in an aggressive marketing campaign at the INTA annual meeting in San Diego -photo courtesy of John Eastwood

Last week, the judiciary committee of the US House of Representatives held a hearing on, among other things, the dot-sucks gTLD. Several people at the hearing used the phrase “extortion”, including Congresspersons Darrell Issa and Jerrold Nadler. Many witnesses echoed similar sentiments, saying that the Vox Populi, the registrar behind dot-sucks, is violating the spirit of the ICANN agreements and rules, especially its tiered pricing model that charges more to brand owners.

Issa seemed to question the necessity of the new gTLDs altogether, suggesting that the new domains have led to a business model built largely on collecting registration fees from brand owners who need to defend their marks. This view seems consistent with rights holders who have spoken with Managing IP- many focus on the challenges brought by defending their brands in an enlarged namespace and do not really see advantages in the programme.

However, some are seeing opportunities in the new gTLDS. Barclays recently announced that it will transfer its websites away from the traditional domains such as dot-com to its own dot-barclays and dot-barclaycard domains. In its press release, the bank said that transitioning to its own branded TLDs would increase security, making it “crystal clear” that the user is on a Barclays site.

Barclays is not the only brand owner to adopt a more positive outlook on the new gTLDs. Jeremy Kaufman of Fox told Managing IP at the INTA annual meeting that in addition to the security advantages that would come from controlling its own gTLD, a dot-fox domain could be a useful tool for marketing. For example, he explained that Fox has a number of local television affiliates spread throughout the United States, and having a .fox domain would help unify the way these stations maintain their web presences.

And perhaps more interestingly, Kaufman also said that Fox may actually save money in the long run, as this means that it no longer has to buy domains from squatters or maintain domains in multiple countries.

This is not necessarily a new development- the Australian Football League has talked about its plans for running its own gTLDs for a while now. However, there does appear now to be more brand owners who see the new gTLDs as something more than just another trade mark-related headache to deal with. In fact, some people told Managing IP that they expect the next round of new gTLDs, expected to next year or the year after that, to be predominantly branded domains as opposed to generic ones such as dot-club or dot-hotel.

What do you think? Will more brand owners warm up to the new gTLDs? Or will the expanded namespace to be something that, from their perspective, dot-sucks?

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