Brand TLD

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A Brand TLD is an innovative type of top level domain name (TLD) that is made possible through the implementation of ICANN's new gTLD Program. A Brand TLD provides the opportunity for branded corporations to use their corporate name as their website's top-level identifier instead of using a more traditional .com or .biz domain space. For example, Apple Inc, may use instead of In an interview, former ICANN CEO Rod Beckstrom explained that the .brand domain is just like a logo change and a new marketing strategy for companies.[1]

Brands represent 34% of the applied for 1,930 applications; a total of 664 brand applications were submitted to ICANN[2][3]

A Brand TLD is not a separate category of TLD such as GeoTLD or Community TLD as defined by the Applicant Guidebook. Some speculate that ICANN may formalize the rules for a Brand TLD in any future TLD expansion round.

See All New Brand TLD Applications

Potential Benefits of a Brand TLD

Some of the potential benefits of operating a Brand gTLD registry, include:[4]

  • Companies can create shorter and easy to remember Internet address
  • It will intensify brand awareness among consumers and it enables them to easily access information regarding the company's products and services
  • Allows companies to control and diversify their web presence by creating second level domains for disparate products and services
  • Increased security against trademark abuses
  • New opportunities for website marketing campaigns and strategies

According to DotBrand Solutions CEO Ben Crawford, the real benefit of owning a .brand TLD is "owning the entire inventory of the second level domains and being able to do whatever you want with it.” In addition, he said that business will be able to improve their domain names and their security.[5]

Reactions to Brand TLDs

Companies and organizations have had varied reactions to brand TLDs. According to domain analysts, companies that will apply for a Brand TLD fall under one of these groups:[6]

  1. Companies or organizations with specific plans and ideas on how to use .brand TLD to increase their profit.
  2. Companies or organizations that are registering for defensive purposes and believe that the current TLD protection is insufficient.
  3. Companies or organizations that do not want to be left behind and miss the opportunity offered by the brand TLD although they are still puzzled on how to operate their own TLD registry.

Deloitte, Canon, Hitachi, Motorola and UNICEF were some of the first groups to have expressed their enthusiasm to apply for their own .brand TLD to enhance their SEO strategy and security against cyber attacks. Canon emphasized that the program provides the company with the opportunity to "increase the convenience and effectiveness of its online communications." [7] [8]

On the other hand, Gary Elliot, Chairman of the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) said companies like Procter and Gamble and HP are not interested in applying for a .brand TLD because the costs involved are confusing and expensive. He estimated that companies will need to spend as much as $1.5 million to operate their own TLD registry. [9] [10]

Following the approval of the ICANN new TLD program, ANA and its spin-off organization, the Coalition for Responsible Domain Oversight (CRIDO) actively opposed the implementation of new TLDs, with obvious emphasis on brand TLDs. The group argued that the program is costly, and harmful to brand owners and consumers.[11] The groups were successful in securing U.S. Congressional hearings to review ICANN's new gTLD Program, though afterwards the program continued on as planned.

The Coalition Against Domain Name Abuse (CADNA), a group of brand owners and trademark owners, said, "One of the biggest responses we have heard from brands is that they feel as if their backs are up against a wall.The fact that ICANN has only offered one opportunity to apply for new gTLDs has created a sense of chaos among brands, who feel as though ICANN is forcing them into making a 'now or never' decision that could impact both them and their consumers. Knowing that they will have the opportunity to apply again after having the chance to see if new gTLDs become valuable will go a long way toward relieving that anxiety." This particularly references the fact that ICANN's program has been introduced without any binding commitment to a second round at a particular time. The ICANN Board subsequently committed to holding further TLD expansion rounds, though a timeframe was not provided.

In May 2013, FairWinds Partners submitted public comments to ICANN on behalf of 16 brand owners advocating for a second template draft new TLD Registry Agreement that recognized the unique requirements of branded TLDs. It was argued that creating a standard contract for them would speed up the contracting process and help introduce new business models to the domain name space more quickly.[12]

Initial Speculation on Demand for Brand TLDs

Based on a survey conducted by World Trademark Review magazine, nearly 50 percent of brand conscious companies responded that they were open to the idea of applying for their brand TLD. The result of the survey corresponds to an earlier estimate of ICANN that the number of applicants will range between 100 to 200.[13]

On the other hand, ARI Registry Services analysis indicated that ICANN would receive as many as 1000 applications for TLDs, and they estimated that sixty percent will be Brand TLD applicants, 30 percent of the applicants will be entrepreneurs and the remaining 10 percent will be governments, organizations and geo TLD applicants. According to Adrian Kinderis CEO of ARI Registry Services, "Analysis of more than 400 clients we've engaged with globally over the past year shows technology and finance companies in Asia Pacific and the US lead the pack.".[14] On January 30, 2012, ARI Registry Services reported that during the first week of the TLD applications the company experienced a strong demand of inquiries regarding their services and 21 clients already signed a contract with the company. According to Mr. Kinderis, the majority of the clients were Brand TLD applicants. In addition he said, ""Critics of the program have suggested there is little demand for new domains. However, from the results we have seen in the first week of applications, we can clearly see strong demand exists." [15]

These predictions were proven wrong on "reveal day", when ICANN disclosed that it had recieved 1,930 applications and that 34%, or 664, were submitted by brand applicants.[16][17]

Changes to US Trademark Rules

In August 2013, The US Patent and Trademark Office proposed new changes to its Trademark rules, making it possible for domain registries to get trademarks on gTLDs. However, the rules and requirements for getting a trademark on a TLD seems to limit trademarks to brand TLDs. Furthermore, single-registrant Brand TLDs might be excluded. This is because one of the requirements is that the TLD be primarily a service to others instead of to the applicant alone. This makes registering a US Trademark for a Brand TLD difficult for many applicants who are planning on being the Registry and the sole registrant, at least at first.[18]

Addendum to Registry Agreement

In early December 2013, ICANN drafted a proposal called "Specification 13", which is a proposed addendum to ICANN's Registry Agreement, the contract that is signed between Registries and ICANN. Specification 13 would define a Brand TLD officially by ICANN for the first time, with a few key specifications:

  • Brand TLDs would be seen as identical to a registered trademark.
  • All domain names registered must be owned by the Registry and its owned businesses.

The addendum is posted for public comment until January 2014.[19]