ICANN Aims to Protect Trademark Owners with New Trademark Clearinghouse

In anticipation of its new generic top-level domain (gTLD) program set to launch later this year, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) recently introduced a new trademark “Clearinghouse.” The Clearinghouse seeks to provide trademark owners with additional protections against infringement (such as cybersquatting and counterfeiting) as new gTLDs go live.

gTLDs are one of the most popular types of top-level domains (TLDs) available for use, visible to Internet users as the suffix following the “dot” in a domain name. Currently, only 22 gTLDs are available, including familiar ones such as com, org and net. ICANN’s new unlimited gTLD program though will radically change the domain name landscape, as ICANN has already received thousands of new gTLD applications. With this expansion comes concern for the increased potential for trademark infringement. For example, infringers could purchase domain names with existing brand names in the domain name before the ‘dot,” but in a new gTLD. Trademark owners that are concerned about infringement can register their trademarks with the clearinghouse, which began accepting applications for registration on March 26.

The Clearinghouse provides two types of protection for trademark owners: the Sunrise Service and the Trademark Claims Service. The Sunrise Service gives Clearinghouse registrants at least 30 days to register their trademarks with new gTLDs before they’re available to the general public. After new gTLDs are available to the public, the Trademark Claims Service runs for at least 90 days and warns third parties attempting to register a domain name identical to a registered trademark. If the third party still registers the domain name, the Clearinghouse will notify the trademark holder. Should litigation ensue, the previous warning to the third party serves as actual notice of infringement, which can be evidence of bad faith in registering the domain name.

Trademark holders wishing to register their trademark with the Clearinghouse can do so at http://www.trademark-clearinghouse.com/.