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gTLDs – Predictions for 2014

As we begin the countdown to 2014, so the gTLD 'revolution' gathers pace.

December 2013

At the time of writing, 24 new gTLDs had been delegated – meaning that the registrars of those domains are now undertaking the final administration processes before launching to the public.  With the list of delegated domains growing every week, the days of consumer access to sites such as 5series.bmw grow closer every day. 

Given this proximity to launch, curiosity is growing in all sections of society over what the impact of these new domains will be.  A good indicator of the consensus amongst brand owners may come from the brand protection efforts being taken in anticipation of the launch. 

Trade marks signBrand owners have had since March this year to record their trade marks in the Trade Marks Clearing House, an e-depository run by Deloitte that is designed to give those with legitimate rights in a mark a head start in registering it as a secondary level domain (e.g. the "taylorwessing" in taylorwessing.com) in any of the new gTLD registries.  Where there are multiple parties with rights in the same mark that wish to secure that mark as a secondary level domain in the same gTLD registry, an auction process will then ensue.  For those who have recorded their marks, the TMCH will also alert them when a third party attempts to register that same brand in any registry. By the end of August, 8,500 marks had been recorded in the TMCH. 

Although this number is not insignificant and is expected to steadily rise, it may not be as high as many were expecting.  After all, 8,500 marks is probably equal to the number of brands owned by only a handful of multinationals.  This not exactly overwhelming response to the TMCH could be explained by the fact that it is not a complete panacea. Read our earlier article for further information.  Rights holders may therefore be using other brand protection methods and/or choosing to record only key brands in the TMCH.

Perhaps the more useful factor to consider is the commercial enthusiasm for the opportunities that will be created.  Akram Atallah (the president of ICANN's General Domains Division) views the introduction of gTLDs as the "biggest change to the internet since its inception".  There are those who are more sceptical, pointing to many people's habit of using search engines to access websites rather than typing full domain addresses into browsers.  On the whole, however, there is widespread excitement over the potentially transformative impact, at least in respect of certain domains, that next year's developments could bring. 

The gTLD .london is one domain that is attracting a lot of interest.  Tens of thousands of London-based businesses, including Selfridges, have allegedly approached the registrar, London & Partners, about securing this domain for their respective brands.  The appeal is easily recognisable – having such a domain would immediately indicate a business's location and/or ties to London which has one of strongest brands of any international hub.  Although .london will be the first city-based gTLD to launch, others will soon follow (such as .nyc and .paris) and it is likely that they too will be extremely popular.  Other domains that will surely become part of our everyday lives are those for specific brands (including those operated by Apple or Barclays, for example). 

dot com keyboardGiven the cost of establishing and operating a registry and the promotional opportunities available, it is likely that the associated marketing efforts following launch will be considerable.  One anticipated result of the gTLD "revolution" is therefore for domain strategy to become a more visible and valued aspect of a business's brand identity, giving an immediate indication of location, product or service whether it be selfridges.london, ipod.apple or wealth.barclays.  However, as with all revolutions, the benefits may not be fully felt by all.  Whether the more generic gTLDs, such as .beauty or .cafe generate the same level of fervour remains to be seen.     

If you have any questions on this article please contact us.

Randeep Grewal

Randeep Grewal looks at the new generic top level domain (gTLDs) revolution, with the registrars of 24 new gTLDs now putting the finishing touches before launching to the public.

"The gTLD .london is one domain that is attracting a lot of interest. Tens of thousands of London-based businesses, including Selfridges, have allegedly approached the registrar..."