Trademark Protection Still an Open Question in New Generic Top Level Domains

10/21/2009 / Molly Eichten

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the non-profit organization that administers the unique identifiers for the Internet, released its third draft of proposed procedures of the new generic Top Level Domain (gTLD) system. The TLD is to the right of the "dot" in an Internet domain name (e.g., ".com"). The proposed new system will allow virtually any gTLD to become part of the TLD system. For more information regarding the new gTLD system, see Expansion of Internet Top Level Domain Names.

At this point, the launch of the new gTLD system would not occur until first quarter 2010 at the very earliest. ICANN is seeking yet more public comment on the latest proposed procedures, which contain more details on stability, identification, and application and dispute resolution procedures. However, despite being very vocal so far in the process, trademark owners still have several concerns regarding bad-faith registrations and having to defensively register their marks to avoid abuse of their brands. Many are still questioning the need for the expanded gTLD system in the first place.

Shortly before its latest release of the procedures, ICANN announced that it reached a new agreement with the U.S. Department of Commerce, the government entity that has overseen ICANN since 1998. The new agreement will allow ICANN to operate more independently in the private sector and to better represent global interests in the operation of the Internet. Under this new agreement, the Department of Commerce will still hold an advisory position, but now so may others, which was not the case in the past. The change of control was welcome news to some in the global business and Internet community, who have long been critical of U.S. control of ICANN.

-- Molly Eichten is a member of the Larkin Hoffman Daly & Lindgren Ltd. Intellectual Property, Technology and Internet Practice.

Article originally published in Larkin Hoffman's IP/Tech Buzz.