The Hospitality Lawg would like to thank Deborah Wilcox for submitting this post.  Deborah coordinates our Cleveland IP/Tech/Media practice and manages legal issues associated with online advertising for Baker Hostetler’s clients.

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) recently approved the launch of the new top level domain (gTLD) program.  Existing organizations can apply to own and run registries for new top level extensions.  These new “dotcoms” may be based on a brand (“.bakerhostetler”), a generic term (“.law”) or a  geographic term (“.miami”).   ICANN expects to release hundreds of gTLDs in the near term and likely thousands in future roll-outs not yet specifically scheduled.

Application Window

The three-month application window is scheduled to open on January 12, 2012, and will close on April 12, 2012.

If you are interested in potentially applying for ownership of a new gTLD, you should review the ICANN Applicant Guidebook now and consult with your strategists, including marketing personnel, IT specialists and legal counsel to plan accordingly.

Community-Based gTLD

Hospitality companies could collaborate and create an industry-specific domain name registry.  In addition to a “.brand” or “.generic”  gTLD application, organizations can apply for a Community-based gTLD, which must be operated for the benefit of a clearly defined community. The Community-based gTLDs are subject to additional application requirements, but will have the benefit of priority over other applications for the same or similar strings.  Cooperation by hospitality companies on a Community-based gTLD could benefit the companies who collaborate by reducing the costs of dispute resolution or string contention at later stages of the application process.

Applying for a gTLD

The application will require you to provide general information about your company or organization, as well as information regarding its financial, technical, and operational capacity to run a domain registry.  Applications for community status must include a community endorsement.  Applications for a geographic gTLD string must include a statement of government support or non-objection.

The application fee for a single gTLD is $185,000. Prior to accessing the full application, applicants must register with the TLD Application System and pay a $5,000 deposit. Partial refunds of the application fee are available at various stages of the application process. These fees do not include the internal costs of preparing and submitting the application materials, the potential costs of a successful auction bid in the event that there are multiple applications for the same string, or the cost of establishing and operating the registry if the application is approved.