The industry group Association of National Advertisers says the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers should give marketers more protection for their brand names before launching new global top-level domain names.
Specifically, the ANA is seeking "limited preventative registrations," which would allow trademark holders to pay a "reasonable" fee to prevent their names from being incorporated into URLs. The ANA says that type of tool would give marketers an alternative to registering their names defensively in order to preempt their use by other companies.
The ANA estimates that the total cost of defensive registrations to brand owners across all of the new domains could reach between $7 billion and $14 billion. "These costs are exclusive of the major consumer harms and other rampant abuses of trademarks that are thoroughly predictable," the ANA says in comments sent to ICANN this week.
ICANN recently received more than 1,000 applications for new generic top-level domains -- which is everything to the right of the last dot in a URL. The group hasn't yet said which of them it will approve, but some of the requests -- such as for ".wtf" or ".sucks" -- are raising marketers' concerns. One of the marketers' fears is that whoever obtains the top-level domain will allow a trademarked name in the secondary domain, or the letters to the right of the last dot in the URL.
One current proposal would allow the owner of the top-level domain to set whatever fee it wishes to for "defensive" registrations by trademark owners. But the ANA says in its comments that very few brands will be able to afford defensive registrations with all of the new top-level domains.
The marketers' group argues that companies should be able to control the use of their trademarks in URLs in order to prevent fraud and cybersquatting.
But a coalition of non-commercial groups says that enabling trademark owners to easily block the use of their names could conflict with free speech principles. Trademark claims "chills speech, harms freedom of expression rights of domain name registrants and scares new businesses, entrepreneurs, budding organizations and community groups," the Non-Commercial Stakeholders Group said in comments submitted to ICANN last month.