In our previous blog post, we discussed the current timeline for the introduction of new generic Top Level Domain Names (gTLDs) and the pros and cons of managing your own gTLD, such as “.yourbrand.” In this post, we’ll discuss the potential risks to brands and what you can do now to help prepare your organization for the pending launch of new extensions.
Fraudsters and criminals will no doubt take advantage of consumer confusion over the introduction of new gTLDs and use whatever opportunities they have to exploit it. Cybersquatting and typo squatting, bitsquatting, traffic diversion, and blatantly misusing and abusing brand names will likely increase exponentially.
Tips for securing your brand in the new gTLDs
One way to prepare your organization for the introduction of new gTLDs is by registering your brands with the trademark clearinghouse, a database of authenticated and registered trademarks. The benefits of registering include validating ownership of the brand, being able to participate in early registration periods for brand owners, and claiming rights to a brand after the new gTLDs launch.
After registering with the clearinghouse, a trademark owner will not have to prove their rights to the trademark every time it tries to enforce them, because ownership will have already been establish. The Sunrise process is a pre-launch phase in which trademark holders will receive the opportunity to register domain names in a gTLD before registration is available to the general public. Finally, the claims period will be open for at least 90 days after the new gTLD goes live, and a person or corporation trying to register a domain name that exactly matches a protected mark will be sent a warning. If the applicant goes forward in the process, the rights holder will be notified.
A second way to prepare your organization for the introduction of new gTLDs is to create a plan and a budget for the most important brands within your organization’s portfolio. This plan should address which brands should be registered as second level domains, or the words to the left of the “dot.” For example, if your organization owns hotels around the world, the plan would address this question: would registering “yourbrand.hotel” make it easier for potential customers to find you online? Or would it confuse them? If you didn’t register the second level domain names, would competitors try to register variations of them, making “.hotel” a gTLD to monitor?
Your plan should include a list of brand names that should be defensively registered as second level domains, including which gTLDs they should be registered in before they go live. For example, if “.sucks” is a gTLD, would you want to register “yourbrand.sucks”? Defensively registering all of the brands in your organization’s portfolio in all of the new gTLDs is likely to be too costly to be feasible, so considering which ones to register will put your organization ahead of the curve.
Finally, your plan should address which Rights Protection Mechanisms (RPM’s) will make the most sense for protecting those particular brands in the event of cybersquatting or trademark infringement, along with a budget.
While the clearinghouse and a solid plan are sure to help mitigate some of the risks posed by the new gTLD program, monitoring will be important. As this infographic demonstrates, Cyveillance offers a comprehensive suite of brand protection solutions and response services, and can help your company monitor for and address the different ways bad actors and criminals may abuse your brand online.