New top level domains could help brands beat cybersquatters

Global brands should explore how best to take advantage of the new global internet names that Icann, the internet's top domain registrar, is making available,...

Global brands should explore how best to take advantage of the new global internet names that Icann, the internet's top domain registrar, is making available, says a brand protection expert.

Irfan Salim, CEO of MarkMonitor, said the new so-called global top level domains (GTLDs) allowed companies to apply for extensions with their own brand names, such as .Coke or .eBay.

This offered them greater security over their net presence because they would be able to control all registrations against that TLD, Salim said.

It also allowed them to use the domain name, which is theirs exclusively, to build a close-knit community by requiring their affiliates to register their own domain names under their GTLD.

Salim said the companies most likely to benefit from this are those with only an internet presence, such as Google, eBay or Amazon. "Coca-Cola has the necessary money to change consumer behaviour, but it needs to look closely at the benefits of running its own domain," he said.

On 6 June Icann published proposals for comment for a new way to handle GTLDs. This would facilitate entry and benefit consumers by expanding output, lowering prices and increasing innovation, Icann said.

Even if new GTLDs did not compete with .com and the other major TLDs for existing registrants, consumers would benefit from more competition for new registrants and more product choice, it said.

Brand owners are worried that the introduction of GTLDs mean they will have to undertake defensive registrations. Icann said it was considering "several proposals" that address this while minimising any harm to consumers from the "draconian" remedy of restricting entry of new GTLDs.

"The ability of Icann to protect trademark holders through dispute resolution mechanisms also implies that price caps on new GTLDs are not necessary to protect trademark holders," it said.

MarkMonitor watches the web for 400 companies, 50 of them Fortune 100 firms, for cybersquatters and other abusers of their brands. Salim said about 10 had asked him to advise them on their position with respect to GTLDs.

Acting as a GTLD registrar for his clients was a business opportunity for MarkMonitor, he said. "It's going to be a multi-million-dollar business, because it costs about $200,000 to go through the Icann process," he said.

He said Icann was still finalising its registration process for GTLDs. "We are looking at this as a 2011 event," he said.

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