ICANN has started dot name evaluations and charging ahead at their full speed. Mathematically it can be proven that any reasonable success of the current 1500 proposed dot names will result in tens of thousands of additional applications in the subsequent rounds. It is estimated that by the year 2020 there will be 10,000 dot names in operation and by 2025 the number would easily double. Such forecasts are not based on technological advances but rather the market demands reflecting sufferings of businesses all over the world facing challenges of their global naming complexities. The dot names and domain name expansion offers new opportunities over wasted budgets on traditional name identity expansion processes as old marketing, branding, and trademarking procedures have already reached their limits.
ICANN is now evaluating 2000 proposed gTLD dot names. Based on the guidelines established and the choice of submissions the most names seem be straightforward cases. Except the multiple-application dictionary words, where the types and styles of names are not only clearly divided into winners and losers the bidding contests will provide breaking-news excitement. Rightfully, the applicants are expecting miraculous results from each of their million dollar paper works. The bidders will decide ownership; the nomenclature rules determine the performance in the marketplace. The jury is still out on the fate of massive dot names influx as new game changers. However, the Internet world faces two critical issues to make or break the dot game. ICANN luckily holds all the keys, for the moment.
THE EVALUATION PROCESS:
Will ICANN apply the trademark registrability rules where ‘similarity’ of a name play a significant role or operate strictly on ‘identical match’ basis? For example, dot apple will only be allowed to Apple Computers while ‘dot abble’ or ‘dot pineapple’ becomes acceptable for some other electronic media company leaving options for Apple to litigate the names? Will ICANN name evaluations become qualified benchmarks or simply open hunting season for trademark litigation. After all, the original ‘first come, first serve’ domain registration policy created many thousands of UDRP cases, cyber-squatting and ‘defensive-registration’ industry. Were these good policies and who were the beneficiaries?
THE TRADEMARK CLEARANCE HOUSE – TMCH
Although, the work is being done at full speed and energies are being consumed on the structural issues and operational framework but what’s missing is the trademark owner’s DATA. Where, when and how will the trademark’s owners data will come into play? Voluntary submissions? No, it will never work. The trademark record is just not a name typed on a single line. On the other hand, a typical trademark record is controlled by local government unless it’s privatized under binding agreements. Like USA, Canada, UK etc. India or Brazil has their own systems of corporate registrations and trademarks filing that are special extensions of such instruments under their Intellectual Property laws. Now let’s all bury our heads in the sand in unison and assume that the countries of the world will gladly hand over the data to create a global trademark clearance house. Not really, this will not happen.
This kind of data is already a goldmine. Thompson trademark search services offers a quick global search scan at USD1500 each name and a detailed registrability search costs USD600 each name, each country, each class. For a candidate name to expand globally the searching alone for 200 countries plus sorting out 30 plus classes the costs will first kill you before you launch the name. A name search could run from few thousands to many tens of thousands of dollars within first week. A typical global search result for a name like InterLink or United would also come back in many hundreds of pages filled with many thousands of citations. Dozens names, dozens try and now you will also need a truck.
The creation of a single highly functional trade mark clearance house is not possible. Such attempts are akin to earlier theological quests where papacy of the period sent out decrees to global clergy of various faiths requesting them to submit their doctrines to formulate a ‘spiritual clearance house’ for latter day absolution. It is said, after centuries, they are still waiting for the folded parchments to arrive back.
For the last couple of hundred years the trademark laws have provided high-class civility and bespoke attire to disputes arising from similar or identical name identities. The country by country registration process to clear any single name by diving into central records and face the prolonged agony to achieve trademark registrations is the sport for multinationals. The Madrid Protocols where some 80 countries recognize and accept each other’s trademark filing is a blessing but it took many decades to arrive this far. Electronic data processing and database management is almost half century old but the trademark records all over the world are much protected silos. Simple, online universality of the global database is unthinkable in the profession. Why?
Mathematically it can also be proven that the top 100 highly diluted names like United, National, Premier are being used by some 100 million businesses all over the world. The individual national registry of each country becomes it own silo and hides the global dilution problems. It worked well last couple of centuries. But not in this current hyper accelerated global cyber branding age? Businesses locked in their own region are regularly investing heavily in keeping their diluted and useless names alive while convinced they are the only right full owners. Keeping the records last century style steals the simplicity of access and economies of the process.
Over the last decade during the maturity of the ecommerce two distinct features emerged; firstly, the domain name and its fierce expansion and secondly, the possibility of dot names becoming a parallel solution over the old global trademarking search and registration procedures. For example, if there is only one ‘dot google’ approved by ICANN under the similar logical trademark laws why would it require any other country by country registrations and cumbersome maintenance? Firstly, upon approval, it will be instantly functional around the globe and secondly protected by ICANN rules while exclusively owned by Google.
Example dot xxx is generic but exclusive controlled by its owners, instantly global and does not warrant a country by country protection. ICANN rules provide a new type of name identity protection. For proposed names the instant digital presence and superiority of performance is starting to shake down the future of old trademark procedures. Surely, global corporate nomenclature rules and marketing complexities play a very big role in this process. The trademarks will always play very important roles in certain areas, but may not be allowed to dominate the stagnated global name expansion space.
THE BENEFICIARIES: Business communities all over the world; consumer will have more stable and less confusing name brands. Domain names ‘expansionists’ and digital mentality will flourish.
THE ENEMIES: Trademark traditionalist, old fashioned ‘brandistas’ and big businesses using last century names that are not capable to fit the new digital platforms.
THE ADJUSTMENTS: Global naming complexities cannot be ignored. ICANN was not formed to tackle such global complexities issue it was created to introduce cute domain names to the world, in time that cuteness has turned into a monster. The time has come for ICANN to adopt major policies based on the rules of naming and corporate nomenclature in the marketplace and incorporate deeper understanding of the nature of the beast among its cadre. The realities and facts are hidden in the massive data bases of names of sorts that drive our global ecommerce.
A domain name irrespective where the ‘dot is placed’ at the end of the day is nothing but a name and as such must conform to the rules of corporate nomenclature and trademark laws. Or else it will lead to anarchy of the name identities going wild on intellectual property. ICANN cannot hide under the exclusive blanket of technology; ignore the global naming problems, excessive usage of URDPs, massive cyber-squatting or booming defensive registration industry. The time has come to create global forum, and boldly discuss the hard core centrality of the global naming complexities. The silent world awaits the answers.