The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) approved on June 20, 2011, a new top level domain system. Whereas top level domains in the past were limited to country code top level domains such as .de and 22 generic top level domains such as .com almost any sequence of signs in any language or script may now be used at the top level of an internet address. Organizations may now run internet addresses under generic terms as .shop or .cars but also under trademarks and geographical indications like .mercedes or .berlin.
Organizations that wish to run domain names under new top level designations will have to pay an application fee of USD 185.000 to ICANN and further substantial annual fees. A dispute resolution system will be set up for top-level-domains conflicting with third party rights.
Nevertheless, the new domain name system will multiply opportunities to abuse of third party rights, in particular on the second-level of internet address names e.g. www.mercedes.shop, www.mercedes.cars, www.mercedes.spareparts etc. A dispute resolution system will also be in place for conflicts on this level, which, however, has largely been criticized as insufficient. Trademark owners wonder how to cope best with this situation.
Dr. Stefan Abel, partner of our firm and panelist with the World Intellectual Property Organization in domain name disputes, has been interviewed on the planned introduction of the new domain names system together with representatives of Yahoo ! and Adobe Systems. This roundtable interview has been published in World Trademark Review's April edition and provides further information.