Internet naming is going to get a lot more interesting now that generic Top Level Domains (gTLDs – the word to the right of the dot, as in “.com,” “.org,” or “.net”) are expanding from the 22 options currently available to domains ending in brands, products, hobbies, political causes and just about anything else.
Canon Inc., the camera and printer company, already plans to apply for ".canon." And Apple could go after not just ".apple," but also ".ipad" and ".iphone."
Groups have already formed to back ".sport" for sporting sites, and two conservationist groups separately are seeking the right to operate an ".eco" suffix. Trade groups for bankers and financial-services companies are jointly exploring applications for ".bank," ".insure" and ".invest" for their member companies.
The incentives to apply for a gTLD are compelling. Among others:
- Protecting your brand name from a similar brand owned by a third party (e.g. Avery labels and Avery Outdoors);
- Concern that competitors in your market may claim the gTLD for themselves (e.g. Plantronics competitor Blue Ant seeks “.headsets” or “.bluetooth”)
- Channel management by combining a unique top level domain with second level domains (e.g. “personal.citi” and “business.citi”)
Unfortunately, as has been well-documented, see, e.g., WebTM, the barriers to applying may outweigh the benefits:
- The application is voluminous (250 pages), takes nine months or more and requires expert vendor assistance (e.g. domain registration consultants and specialized counsel) of which there is limited supply;
- Practically speaking, if you have not yet started to prepare for the first round applications due Jan. 2012, you are too late and will have to wait over a year until the next round;
- The upfront application costs, all in, exceed $300K and there is a minimum 10 year commitment to operate the new domain adding additional costs exceeding $1M.
Assuming these barriers are too great for most companies, there is nonetheless a near term, low cost strategy that even these companies should consider.