The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) is the organization that coordinates the Domain Name System, including generic (gTLD) and country code (ccTLD) top-level domain name management. Generic top-level domains include the familiar .com, .net, .info, .org, etc. domain extensions, while country codes are those extensions specific to a particular country, such as .us, .ca., .fr, etc. In June 2011, ICANN authorized the launch of a new gTLD program, whereby applicants can apply to register and operate gTLD extensions that include brand names, acronyms, geographical names, industry terms, generic words, etc. As a result of ICANN’s expansion of the number of available gTLDs, over 1900 applications have been filed for new gTLDs. Many of these applications are for brand gTLDs or open generic gTLDs, but there are also a number of applications for closed generic gTLDs, whereby the applicants have filed for gTLD strings that are generic terms in the industries in which they compete and the applicants propose to maintain and control the registries exclusively for their own benefit. The governments of Australia and Germany, as well as registrars and brand owners, have espoused warnings that closed generics will allow their owners to compete unfairly by using generic, common words associated with an entire industry for their own specific corporate goals. Arguments have been presented that the companies owning closed generic gTLDs will have an unfair advantage in search engine results, will become associated with the market sector they fall within, and will be able to prevent competitors perpetually from registering substantially similar gTLDS. In light of the concerns voiced by the community regarding closed generic gTLDS, ICANN has opened a 30-day comment period seeking public comment on whether requirements should be adopted with respect to applications for closed generic registries. Specifically, ICANN requests comments addressing:

  1. how to determine whether a string is generic, and
  2. the circumstances under which a particular TLD operator should be permitted to adopt open or closed registration policies.

 

» The comment period is set to close on March 7, 2013. «
For more information or to submit a comment, visit the ICANN web site.

This article was prepared by Sheri Hunter (shunter@fulbright.com and 512 536 3092) of Fulbright’s Intellectual Property and Technology Practice.