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Short Application Period Spurs Artificial Demand for .Brand TLDs

Three month window means lots of companies will apply for .brand under pressure.

It may have been Google that made in mainstream.

It’s the idea of a closed beta. Remember clamoring for a Gmail invite? Or perhaps begging for an invite to Google Wave, which you had no idea what the heck it was? Now Google+?

A similar thing is going on with new top level domain names, especially for .brand domain names. But this time it’s time based, like saying if you don’t sign up for Google+ today then you may not be able to sign up for it for five years.

Companies have a three month window to apply for their own .brand domain name. After that they might never get a chance again, and certainly won’t anytime soon.

This creates a sort of artificial time-based scarcity that will spur brands to apply for new TLDs. I expect hundreds to pay the money for a .brand TLD.

They will fall into three camps:

1. Companies that have an idea how they’ll use the .brand TLD.

2. Companies that are registering for defensive reasons because they aren’t fully protected by TLD protections (e.g. Apple or ATT).

3. Companies that have no idea how or if they’ll use the .brand TLD, but realize if they miss this window they lose the opportunity.

I suspect the third category will be the largest contingent, followed by the second and then the first (companies that actually know what they want the TLD for now). If the window for .brand TLDs was ongoing, most companies would sit on the sidelines and watch what their competitors do.

Neustar’s new “Brand Assurance” program is targeted at people in groups two and three.

Like the car salesman says…if you don’t act now this car will be gone tomorrow.


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ICANN Video Explains New TLDs to the Masses

New top level domain names in just six minutes.

Last week ICANN published a video explaining what new top level domain names are and what they mean to companies and businesses that might want to apply for one.

I think it does a good job of describing what new top level domains are and explains some of the challenges applicants face — including steep fees and a long wait. Of course there are many more challenges than what you can explain in a short video, but I think this is a good initiator.

What do you think?


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.Gay Trademark Application Filed

Trademark frontrunning continues.

A Washington man has filed an intent-to-use trademark application for “.gay” with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

Thomas Petersen DBA Creighton Investments, LLC filed the application on June 20 just after ICANN approved a plan to open up the top level domain name system.

Petersen doesn’t seem to be connected to either of the two groups that have publicly announced plans to apply for the .gay top level domain name thus far.

But the trademark application won’t get far. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office doesn’t approve trademarks for top level domain names. Some applicants find ways to squirrel around the field of use to slip one past the examiner, but Petersen’s application is quite blunt:

Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers extension for top level world wide web domain name extension for all domains ending in “.gay” to be first used in commerce upon provisioning by ICAAN. The mark will be used to promote, identify and market websites pertaining to the gay and lesbian population.

…Trademark is asserted only for use as a Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers extension for top level world wide web domain name extension for all domains www.example.gay

Petersen simultaneously filed a trademark application for .omni.

This isn’t the first time someone has filed a trademark application for .gay. A Toronto company tried in 1997 but gave up the following year.


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U.S. Shuns .Music Trademark Ahead of New TLD Launch

Trademark office questions use in commerce of .music logo.

.musicConstantine Roussos has made it clear that he plans to use international trademarks to help him win the .music top level domain name during the application process.

But the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office isn’t playing a long.

On December 31 Roussos filed a trademark application for a .music logo. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office wrote back saying there were two problems:

1. The mark hasn’t been used in commerce “in connection with the identified services as of the filing date of the application.” In other words, Roussos has used the logo but not for the goods and services identified since no one can actually register .music domain names right now.

2. The application must disclaim the descriptive wording “.MUSIC”. Filing a design trademark that includes .music may be a clever way to claim rights to .music, but the USPTO isn’t hearing it.

Roussos isn’t the only one filing trademarks on top level domain names before the application window even opens. I think this will be one of the messy areas during the application process.

Roussos’ .music campaign has its first announced competitor. I expect there to be more.


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New TLD Guidebook Won’t Be Approved in Singapore

The guidebook itself won’t be done — but ICANN will approve something in June.

I’ve gone through the latest version of the new top level domain name applicant guidebook and read ICANN’s explanation of what it is.

I’d call it version 0.7 (beta).

And I’d argue that there will be no approval of the guidebook at June’s ICANN meeting in Singapore. Instead, ICANN hopes to loosely “approve the new gTLD program”.

It’s right there in ICANN’s introduction to the latest guidebook.

The Applicant Guidebook is intended to be a comprehensive guide and will be regularly updated as aspects of the process are implemented. The Board will listen to community dialogue at the ICANN public meeting in Singapore, and will continue to solicit comments on specific areas.

Well, you can’t “approve” something in its final state if you will solicit comments after you plan to vote on the approval.

The introduction then states:

The Board of Directors will consider approval of the New gTLD Program at an extraordinary meeting on Monday, 20 June 2011, during ICANN’s international meeting in Singapore.

For years the ICANN community has been equating the official approval of the program to be the approval of the guidebook.

But that need not be the case. Instead, expect ICANN to consider “approval of the new gTLD program” at the June 20 meeting. The guidebook will be open ended. There’s no way all outstanding issues will be settled by then, and ICANN is admitting this with its latest language.

That said, it’s possible that the communications period will launch after the Singapore meeting. That would be a big win for new TLD applicants as the marketing activities can run concurrent to finalizing application terms.

Still, I don’t think ICANN Chairman Peter Dengate Thrush’s planned party to celebrate approval will be as exciting with this looming over applicants’ heads.


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.Med and .Give May Become New Top Level Domain Names

Company files trademark applications related to new top level domain names.

With the possibility of new top level domain name applications opening up early next year, a New Jersey company appears to be expanding its plans to introduce new TLDs.

Dot One, Inc., has filed three trademark applications over the past month for top level domain names.

The company has filed applications for “Dot One”, “Dot Med”, and “Dot Give”.

I’ve found very little information about the company online. But there is a release about the company’s plans to offer .ONE as a top level domain name.

President & CEO, Anthony Ortiz said “Dot One has developed proprietary technology that tracks internet users’ time spent online and creates donations to the charitable organizations of their choice. In turn, participating businesses on .ONE will have the opportunity to match those contributions and double the amount of giving potential. Users will also get a check every month from Dot One, Inc. for any extra time generated. Where else are you be able to surf the web, give and make money all in the same time? Nowhere! This novel approach will be revolutionary and Dot One will lead the way to micro-giving in a way that is long overdue.”

It seems like one of those pay-to-surf programs of yesteryear, where users viewed ads as they surfed and were paid for doing so.

The company says it’s working with Minds + Machines for its registry services.

Of course, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office currently will not allow trademarks for top level domain names.


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Warning: This NPR Story About Domain Names Might Enrage You

Story labels domainers cybersquatters, and then some.

Don’t click through to this NPR Marketplace story if you’re agitated today. It will only flip you off the edge.

In a story today titled “Biz model for domain names to change”, things don’t start off well:

Ever wonder why the address for the photo-sharing website Flickr doesn’t have an E in it? It’s because — and this is a true story — the founder liked the name “flicker” — E, R — but couldn’t negotiate the rights to it. The guy who had it wouldn’t sell. So, she improvised and came up with the next best thing. Cyber-squatting, as it’s known, has led to a whole spate of oddly-spelled company names and web addresses.

The story then goes on to tell why the days of selling .com domain names for a lot of money are over, and interviews two people who don’t own a bunch of .com domains to find out why.

There’s David Sarno, who explains:

I don’t know any of my best friends’ phone numbers. That era is gone where you had to remember phone numbers. Now, you just pick out your phone and click on their name. So, it should be a similar thing with businesses and entities of all kinds, where all I have to do is remember your name, and I’ve searched for your name online and it takes me to your website.

His analogy is great, but not for what he’s trying to say. The analogy is that instead of remembering an IP address, you type in a domain name.

And how about this, from narrator Cash Davis:

A lot of times the domain isn’t even in use. Some greedy opportunist is just sitting on it, waiting for you to buy it from him at an inflated price. It’s sneaky and outrageous. Or, to put it another way, capitalism. Because a good domain name is vital part of your brand, though, this is a real problem.

OK, at least they admitted it’s capitalism.

But here’s the kicker:

But uh-oh, wait. If you add these new names, what happens to all those greedy opportunists who basically registered the entire thesaurus to make a fast buck? I do hope they’ll be OK and don’t lose all their money.

At least like many Marketplace stories it’s somewhat tongue-in-cheek.

(Hat tip Nat Cohen)


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New Top Level Domains Still Two Years Away from Reality

Latest ICANN guidance and remaining challenges means new TLDs are a long way away.

The introduction of new top level domain names, such as .green and .food, looks to be at least a couple years away from reality.

ICANN’s latest draft guidebook for entities wishing to apply for a new top level domain name states that the application process is likely to start in the “first half of 2010″. Previously, the goal was the first quarter of 2010, but even that was the result of multiple delays.

Assuming that ICANN meets this new deadline and opens up applications in May or June of 2010, there will still be a long delay before any applications are approved. ICANN expects the typical application lifecycle to last eight months, and more complex applications could take as many as 19 months.

Top level domains that could be considered complex vary widely. Any existing top level domain or applicant can file an objection to a new TLD, which could delay the process. Based on existing guidelines, the applicant for .green could object to .eco on the basis of it it having “visual, aural, or similarity of meaning”. You can expect some applicants to play hardball, such as .Sport Policy Advisory Council to object to applications for .basketball or .run.

Once the application lifecycle is complete, applicants will have to complete preparations for launch, including getting registrars on board, and getting software companies to add compatibility for the new TLD to their software. If this is done in conjunction with the application process, this could conceivably mean a new top level domain hits the web in mid 2011

But that seems like a stretch. There’s still a lot of work to be done on new top level domains. And if the process so far is any indication, new top level domain names are a long way from coming to a browser near you.


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