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July 18, 2012 Elizabeth Sweezey

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How Can I Make the Most of the Potential New gTLDs?

Based on the 1,930 new gTLD applications ICANN received, it is estimated that as many as 1,200 new gTLDs could enter the marketplace. If statistics from the wider application pool hold true, about one-third of these new gTLDs will be branded terms, while the remainder will be for generic and geographic terms, and terms in non-Latin characters.

While brand owners make up a significant portion of new gTLD applicants, a very high number of brand owners opted to not apply for their own new gTLDs. All brand owners, regardless of whether or not they applied for new gTLDs, will have to adjust their strategies to continue to protect their intellectual property and promote their brands in this vastly expanded domain name space.

How can brand owners make the most of new gTLDs? The answer boils down to being proactive. Starting now, brand owners should follow developments in the New gTLD Program to get a sense of who will be operating which gTLDs, particularly those generic-term gTLDs that correspond to their industry or core products. Next, brand owners should reach out to the operators to begin to figure out how those new gTLDs will impact their future digital strategies. If your company produces wine, for example, you should research the three applicants for .WINE to determine which rights protection and abuse prevention mechanisms each plans to offer, so you can be sure that your trademarks will not be infringed in this gTLD.

Similarly, brand owners should begin learning how ICANN’s policymaking process works and exploring ways to get involved. This will be the best way to ensure that their company’s interests are represented, both in the policies surrounding the current gTLD expansion and in any future expansions. 

Another major part of this proactive strategy is identifying ways to extract value from new gTLDs from a marketing perspective. If your company applied for one or more new gTLDs, odds are you have already begun devising ways to ensure a return on your investment. But if your brand did not apply, there are still opportunities to leverage the marketing power of new gTLD domains. These will become more apparent as time goes on and gTLDs enter the market, but the time to begin planning is now. 

How should brand owners approach new gTLDs? The best approach is realistic and tactical. Being realistic means brand owners must choose which gTLDs they realistically need to register their brands in. Brand owners also need to be realistic when it comes to budget – a 50-fold increase in the number of gTLDs will inevitably require additional investment in trademark protection, namely Sunrise and defensive second-level domain registrations, monitoring, and enforcement efforts. But by planning ahead, brand owners can be strategic about planning their budgets and making sure they have adequate resources in place. 

On the tactical side, now is an ideal time to establish a solid strategy and set of best practices for registering domain names. This will help brand owners avoid spending money unnecessarily during the potentially chaotic influx of new gTLDs.

It is still unclear how the future of new gTLDs will unfold, but the level of buy-in from major strategic companies suggests that new gTLDs could become powerful marketing tools. As long as brand owners are proactive, realistic, and tactical, they will be able to treat new gTLDs as positive additions to their marketing portfolios, instead of burdens.

Read the full article on Managing IP.