New-style ICANN Domains:The Net Widens, Don't Be Caught!
ICANN, the body that controls the assignment of domain names and web addresses has announced this week that from now on, URLs will not be restricted to the standard suffixes such as .com, .org and .co.uk.
Apparently, anything will be possible when the new scheme rolls out - for example we can expect to see www.transportfor.london and www.google.search quite soon.
Any word could replace the "dot com".
Accountants, for instance, could be exptected to use ".accountants", ".audit", ".money", ".finance", ".tax", ".advice", ".professionals" or even ".acc".
A clothing brand could use anything from ".fashon" to ".socks" ...the list is endless.
...but isn't this all rather a .double-edged sword?
(Geddit? Dot double-edged sword? - Ed)
.Yes, .at first blush, it is a .great move and signifies the opening up of the .Internet away from its .history as a technical tool and towards the .commercial and .social .medium that it has .become.
But for businesses, although the .marketing opportunities are .exciting, the .risks are .severe if you don't have your .legals covered.
Until now, most .businesses .protect their internet presence by .buying up various .domain names - the popular suffixes, some common misspellings, and any obvious dashes or other .punctuation.
But this .approach will no longer .work - with the opening up of the system, there will simply be too many variations for this to be a cost-effective solution. The same range of words that give rise to vast marketing opportunities give rise to .deep .branding .hazards.
(OK, thats enough dottiness now!! ...er .Editor)
The good news is that the trademark registration process should still enable you to protect your brand. It is inexpensive to protect a brand as a registered trademark and the Madrid Protocol allows us to file one application in London that zips around the world. Indeed, it has never been cheaper to get a global ownership of a brand in all the markets that matter. This is now even within the reach of modest-sized SME's and even some start-ups.
Trademarks are respected on the internet, too. An international legal system known as the UDRP allows trade mark owners to claw back domains that should rightly be theirs from cybersquatters, hijackers and other unruly users of the internet.
Given the way in which a clever dot suffix can appeal to the search engines businesses will find their goodwill increasingly hi-jacked unless they protect it by trademark registration.
ICANN's new system is set to launch in January 2012, ..just 6 months from now.
Put simply, business owners now must consider the question: As the opportunity to revolutionise your internet presence arises in 2012, have you protected your basic trademark position properly?