Posted on 3/2/2016 1:19:54 AM By Partridge Partners

The content after the “dot” in a web address is referred to as a generic top-level domain (gTLD). The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) recently opened up the options for what follows that “dot” beyond the familiar .COM, .NET, .ORG and .EDU to a group of terms that is being referred to as “New gTLDs.” Although the first new gTLD became operational two years ago, it is only now that the general public is becoming aware of the gTLD program. This post will provide a basic overview of the new gTLDS, addressing a few important developments within the gTLD program and identifying what we can expect next.

New gTLD Take on Different Forms

Currently, 900 new gTLDs have been made operational, and 1200 are expected in total. gTLDs can be divided into three general categories:

  • Open Generics: Open to anyone – hundreds of generic terms like .NEWS, .MENU, and .PARTNERS, which might describe your business or comprise part of your trademark (i.e., “www.trademark.MENU”). These are available through most major registrars at reasonable costs.  
  • Restricted Generics: gTLDs that match regulated industries employ a higher threshold before allowing registrations. So, for example, only regulated banks can register a .BANK domain name. Certain geographic domains (like .NYC) require registrants be located in or connected to the geographic location. Domain name registrants may be required to submit certain identifying information proving their right to register a domain name in that gTLD space.
  • Closed Brands: These domains are controlled by a company and registrations are limited to that company. For example, Lanxess Corp. controls and operates the .LANXESS TLD strictly for the benefit of the company, and the general public cannot register domain names in that space.

Some Rules Changed… After the Applications Were In

A major development during the gTLD program was to decision to disallow “closed generics,” meaning a generic domain that would be treated like a Closed Brand domain. So, if an entity had bid for .PIZZA and intended to use .PIZZA exclusively for itself, it is now required to operate as an open registry. The policy behind this decision was not to exclude the general public from domains that are generic and widely used. On the other hand, closed .Brands were allowed. The standard contract had to be amended to include Specification 13, which allows a company to operate a domain that matches its registered trademark exclusively for the benefit of that company. This was a major win for Brands, allowing them to control their trademarks in the digital space.

What’s Next?

Here is what you can expect in regards to gTLDs:

  • Governments are pushing for higher priority and stronger protections.  
  • Inter-governmental organizations have pushed for strong protections, and the issue is still up in the air. It’s not just the name of the organization that might be protected, but also the associated acronym.  
  • The second round of applications is expected in 2018.