Over 1300 new ‘generic top level domains’ are being introduced. If you have a trade mark you have the opportunity to purchase your preferred domain in advance. If not, you may have to join a long line before getting your hands on the domain you want.

Spearing Waite’s intellectual property and trade mark specialist John Buckby explains the steps you should take to protect your brand in light of the new domains.

Generic Top Level Domains (gTLDs) are the internet domains identified by suffixes such as .com, .net, and .org. Until 2013, only 22 gTLD’s were available. Now over 1300 new gTLD’s are being made available. This includes domains such as .property, .insurance, .food, .sport, and .fashion. Whatever sector your business operates in, it’s likely there’s a new gTLD to match.

When are the new top-level domains coming in?

The process has already started, with new domains scheduled for introduction each month. You can check the status of the new domains on the ICANN website.

Who can apply for gTLDs?

Anyone can apply for the new domains. There is likely to be stiff competition, as businesses across the world seek to register domains matching their brand. For example, if there are dental businesses called ‘Zing’ in both America and the UK, they may may both seek to register the ‘zing.dentist’ domain.

If you own a trade mark, you have a chance to secure your rights first.

When do the new domains become available?

Each new domain is first made available in a ‘Sunrise Period’. This is an initial period of availability open exclusively to trade mark owners who have submitted details of their mark to the appropriate organisation.

After Sunrise, there’s a ‘Landrush Period’ during which domains may be sold at a premium price or subject to bidding wars between interested parties. When the Landrush Period expires, domains finally become available to the general public on a first-come-first-served basis.

So far, around 230 domains have scheduled ‘Sunrise’ start dates.  Some have already begun, others have a Sunrise scheduled deep into 2015. Many have not yet been scheduled and there is still time to protect your rights – and to apply for a trade mark if you haven’t got one yet.

What should I do to secure the domain I want?

First, if you have a trade mark you should submit it to the ‘Trademark Clearinghouse’. Once the trade mark has been approved, you can participate in all future Sunrise Periods before the new domains enter the Landrush Period or become available to the general public.

If you haven’t got a trade mark, it may be worth applying for one immediately, before your preferred gTLD becomes available. Otherwise, your rights will not be protected and other registrants may be able to secure important domain names before you – including those incorporating your own brand name.

Spearing Waite’s IP team is experienced at advising on domain name and trade mark matters.  If you’d like help in this area, including applying for trade marks or submitting them to the Trademark Clearinghouse, we can help.  Contact John Buckby here.

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