Soon, web addresses ending in extensions like .accountant or .pizza or .baby will overwhelm the online world previously dominated by .com, .org and .net and a few others. At least 1,000 of these new “non.com” extensions are expected by the end of 2013 alone.
A virtually unlimited number of new website name options will be available for businesses. However, nearly 2/3 of small businesses are unaware that these new extensions are coming.
Generic Top-Level Domains
In 2012, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) agreed to create new generic top-level domains, allowing companies and organizations to apply for domains that more specifically reflect their brands. So far, ICANN is processing more than 2,000 applications. Once the system is up and running, ICANN plans to create up to 1,000 new gTLDs each year.
Ownership of these custom domains may be far beyond the reach of many small businesses. It costs $185,000 to apply for a new gTLD. If the application is accepted, the fee is an additional $25,000 a year. However, a small business often can register to be on one of the new domains.
Available to Small Business
Once a gTLD is granted, the owner becomes a registrar. This means that the owner can charge a registration fee to businesses that want to get their domain on a particular gTLD – like jones.florist or jones.plumber or jones.bakery instead of (or in addition to) jones.com.
Alternatively, the owner of the gTLD can limit use to members of a particular group, company or community.
Popular New gTLDs
The most popular new names in the applications race so far include .app, .inc, .home, .art, .blog, .book, .llc, .shop, .design, .movie, .music, .cloud, .hotel, .love, .ltd, .mail, .news, .store and .web. They can be generic, brand-specific (.google, .bmw, .aol) or geo-specific (.nyc, .boston, .paris).
There are also new internationalized website naming options for users in Russian, Chinese, Japanese, Arabic and other languages that do not use a Western alphabet. The first 27 of these extensions were approved in March 2013.
Trademark owners will need to take extra steps to protect their marks. As of March 2103, a Trademark Clearinghouse will allow proactive trademark owners to submit qualified trademarks to a central repository as a tool to help protect their marks. Registration is $150 per year. It offers two services.
The Sunrise Registration service allows trademark owners to register domain names that match their marks, before these become open to the general public. The Trademark Claims service posts an alert to the applicant of any application for a domain name that is identical to a mark they’ve recorded in the Clearinghouse. Both of these services have time limits.
Call an Intellectual Property Lawyer
The law surrounding the website URLs of small businesses is complicated. Plus, the facts of each case are unique. This article provides a brief, general introduction to the topic. For more detailed, specific information, please contact an intellectual property lawyer.