The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (“ICANN”) recently opened a Trademark Clearinghouse (“TMCH”) designed to protect registered trademarks. Each time a new generic Top Level Domain (“gTLD”) is launched, trademark owners often find they need to fend off a rash of new cybersquatting domain names that crop up as a result. While there are procedures in place to contest the use of a trademark improperly embedded in a domain name, they can be fairly costly and time-consuming.
Now, with the new TMCH, a trademark owner can record a registered trademark (and certain other marks that meet ICANN requirements) for a modest $150 annual fee. This fee also grants owners access to a “sunrise period” each time a new gTLD is launched. In other words, if a trademark is recorded in the TMCH and the new gTLD introduced is of interest, the trademark owner has at least a 30 day window of opportunity to claim and register a domain name comprising the trademark and the new gTLD before it becomes available to the general public.
This is an especially important new trademark protection mechanism because there are a number of new gTLDs slated for issuance later this year which will greatly expand the available “space” of the Internet. While available domain names are fairly limited, there are nearly 2,000 applications currently pending for new gTLDs which should begin to issue early summer 2013.