ICANN (The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) opened the Trademark Clearinghouse system on March 26.  The Trademark Clearinghouse is intended to give trademark holders and brand administrators the opportunity for protection against trademark infringement arising out of the new generic top level domain (gTLD, or “Dot Brand”) program.

gTLD means the top level domain name for a website – the name or abbreviation after the dot.  Currently there are about a dozen to choose from, like “.com, .net, .gov” and so on (see our previous post about the .xxx TLD).   ICANN’s Dot Brand program allows entities to apply to create and administer generic gTLDs.  For example, someone may apply to create “.apple, .microsoft, or .amazon” gTLDs.

Business owners who’ve invested time and money establishing trademarks and brands understand the need to be vigilant to protect against infringement.  The Dot Brand program is a new frontier, opening new opportunities for potential infringement and cybersquatting.  That’s why it’s important for business owners to be aware of the Trademark Clearinghouse, and use it if necessary to help ensure that entities not related to them do not acquire a gTLD using their trademark. 

The Trademark Clearinghouse system gives business owners the opportunity to register their trademarks or brands.  Once a brand is registered, the Trademark Clearinghouse offers registered brand-holders three ways to protect their brands: 

  1. a sunrise period during which brand-holders have priority over the general public to register for a new gTLD;
  2. the Trademark Claims Service, which notifies registered brand-holders of any attempt to register a domain name matching their name or trademark; and
  3. a dispute resolution process.

For more information see resources collected by the International Trademark Association (INTA).

Over 1800 applications for Dot Brand domains have been filed so far, and applications are currently being processed.  ICANN anticipates signing new dot brand registry contracts after July 2013.  That means the time to become involved and learn how best to protect your brand is now.

If you have questions about what the Dot Brand program may mean for your business, or want to know how to protect your brands via the Trademark Clearinghouse, please contact David Closson, attorney and head of our Business Law Group, at [email protected].

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