Suddenly there’s a lot more real estate available on the Web. In the last few weeks the Internet Corp. for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) began releasing new domain extensions like .clothing and .camera. As many as 700 new publicly available gTLDs will roll out in waves through 2015, a huge increase over the 22 previously in use. The ability to register a customized domain name seems like a good thing. Chocolate.candy, for example, may work better for a confectioner than chocolate.com. Commentators debate whether the new rush brings more burdens than benefits, but sitting out hardly seems attractive. The issue is how to reduce the burdens.
How and Why to Get a New Generic Top-Level Domain Name
ICANN’s website lists the new generic top-level domains currently available. Each extension's launch will be divided into several phases: a Sunrise Period for trademark holders, an optional Landrush Period, and a General Availability Period. The cost drops significantly as the General Availability Period approaches. A number of registrars offer pre-registration for particular names, but it can be expensive and comes without a guarantee. GoDaddy, for example, reports that it will conduct a private auction for individuals who have pre-registered the same name. Another option is to simply sign up for a domain watching service.
The availability of anything new prompts both offensive and defensive thinking. Certainly don’t abandon an existing IP address. Purchasing a new domain that will link to an existing website may be a good way to expand an online footprint. On the other hand, it may be important to prevent a useful domain from falling into the hands of a competitor. Defensive buying could become expensive and may lead to charges of cybersquatting. The smart money says to make sure that any purchase fits within a larger online marketing plan. Let the strategy drive the tactics.
The defensive line of thinking may be more appropriate to trademark protection. Defining and preserving business identity is one of the major tasks of any start-up. Federal trademark registration is an essential step. The increasing number of generic top-level domains adds another reason to consider protecting your IP address and hashtag, as well as your business name.
However, registration is only the beginning of the story. Your trademark is only as strong as your willingness to defend it, and the new gTLDs just make the situation a little more difficult. This may be the time to enlist the aid of a trademark monitoring service so that if someone buys the right to use a new gTLD that infringes on your business name or IP address, you can take the steps necessary to defend it.
This is certainly a time for proactive research, but not necessarily preemptive buying. There may be no harm in waiting for the price of a generic top-level domain to drop during General Availability Period. No acquisition makes sense unless it fits into an existing online marketing strategy. The biggest exception to this cautious approach relates to trademark protection. It is now even more important to take an aggressive approach to monitoring and responding to potential encroachments on your business identity.