By now, you likely know that ICANN is accepting applications for new gTLDs through April 12, 2012.  This post is intended to help those in the hospitality industry charged with monitoring the opportunities and risks associated with ICANN’s initiative.    

What’s Going On Now?

After 7 days, ICANN announced that there were “25 successful registrants in the online TLD Application System.”  However, that same press release stated that ICANN would not provide a running total of applicants or reveal the gTLD’s being applied for. 

But this being the Internet, others are trying to provide the information ICANN won’t.  These include .nxt and www.newgtldsite.com.  Both indicate that there has been an application for .hotel, but no specific hospitality brand has applied for a .brand according to these sites. 

What is Going to Happen in the Next Several Months?

ICANN anticipates that some new gTLDs will be ready for delegation in early 2013. Between the close of the application window and the end of the year, ICANN’s schedule looks like this:

  • The Big Trickle – In May, ICANN will begin posting the “public portions of all applications considered complete and ready for evaluation within two weeks of the close of the application submission period.”  However, the “big reveal” will actually be a “big trickle” as the posting process may stretch over 8 weeks or more. 
  • Comment Period Opens – Once an application is publicly posted, ICANN will open a 60-day comment period.  During this period, comments may be submitted on the posted application for review by the applicable evaluation panel. These comments are generally limited to concerns regarding whether: (a) the applied-for gTLD string may cause security or stability problems, including problems caused by similarity to existing gTLDs or reserved names; and (b) the entity applying for the gTLD has the requisite technical, operational, and financial capabilities to operate a registry. The comment period may be extended “should the volume of applications or other circumstances require.” 
  • Formal Objection Period – Separate from the open comment period, a formal objection process will also be available to trademark owners.  Formal objections may be made on the following grounds: String Confusion Objection, Legal Rights Objection, Limited Public Interest Objection, Community Objection. The objection filing period will open after ICANN posts the application “and will last for approximately 7 months.”

What May Change? 

  • It is hoped that the Trademark Clearinghouse service provider will be identified before the end of February. This mechanism is intended to provide clear notice to the prospective registrant of the scope of a trademark holder’s rights and could prove to be an effective alternative to a formal objection.
  • In January, ICANN appeared confident in proceeding according to its plan despite opposition from various governmental and business groups. However, it could still bow to pressure and revise its procedures to address concerns about cybersquatting and the cost of defensive action.  For example, ICANN may follow the Commerce Department’s reasonable request to phase in new gTLDs after the application window closes.