Protecting Your Brand Online: The Expansion Of The Internet

By Whitney Blessington | April 30th, 2013

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Have you recently stopped to think at all about what will happen when literally all the .com’s are taken? I mean, at some point, all of the houses in your subdivision or neighborhood, or all of the apartments in your building or condos in your complex get swooped up, right? You’ve probably noticed that GoDaddy and other registrars have started promoting .co, .me, .us and even .xxx. But from a branding perspective, what is right for your business?

Well, we definitely advise clients to protect their brand(s), and as the internet expands into so many new extensions, it’s getting harder and harder, and more costly to do so. This means, if you own (yourcompany’sname).com, going out and getting the .net, .org, .co, .me, .us and even .biz extensions is a good idea, just so nobody else can have them.

Now, depending on the size if your business, it may be unrealistic to try and do so, and renew each extension each year. Some, like the .tv extension, are a little more pricey than others, and some are flat out taken.

It can get intimidating, as the internet continues to expand, with more and more extensions popping up all the time. The most interesting extension possibility, is that of brand extensions, also referred to as top level domain extensions. In an article by Inc Magazine’s Christina DesMarais on April 24, 2013, the possibility of brand-centric extensions being awarded is discussed in a way that I hadn’t previously seen before. For example, if company’s like Apple, Nike or Coke could own the extensions .apple, .nike or .coke, it would be far better than owning any combination of their brand names prefacing the boatload of extensions currently available. Owning .yourbrand could eliminate the need to ever own another extension ever again.

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The only issue is, how do you get a hold of this type of asset for your brand?

Well, currently, they’re not really available, technically. Yet. DesMarais reports that ICANN – The International Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (an L.A. based non-profit), has been taking the lead on this new initiative, that has lasted almost a decade. Within the last year, ICANN began taking applications from organizations or entities that want to control these types of new domain registries. Most brands want their own extensions to use for themselves, like Citibank, who has applied for .citi. Other entities want the new extension so they can sell off different sub-levels of them. So for a generic term like .shoes for example, a company could own it, yet sell bits and pieces, like my.shoes, your.shoes, his.shoes, her.shoes, and so on.

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So, as you can imagine, these are extremely expensive. In fact, DesMarais reports that every application to even be considered for registry requires $185,000 plus proof of money – but when there is more than one applicant for a domain (a good example DesMarais points to is .music – an auction bidding war will decide the eventual owner.

While it may seem near impossible for your company to consider getting involved in a generic top level extension bidding war over something like .blog, .sound, .air, .wind, etc. – DesMarais provides a few nice tips for small businesses and start-ups to get in the game and compete for a share of these branded top level extensions.

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First of all, having a trademark for your company’s name and the right to use it online is critical, as well as a trademark for your logo. This way, you have a leg to stand on when it comes to preventing other organizations from creating confusion with your brand.

According to DesMarais, “there are rights and protection built into ICANN’s system that allow trademark holders to reserve or purchase their trademarks before the general public.” These will be called sunrise periods, and it will likely be just as important to pay attention to these, as it is to try and get all extensions of your brand name protected under the current set-up.

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There will also be something called a UDRP, which will allow brands to file a streamlined arbitration document to recover their domain without filing a lawsuit, when someone has taken a domain extension that they don’t own the trademark for, or are simply trying to “park” it.

Solid information sources to monitor to find out when different extensions are becoming available include: DomainSkate, World Intellectual Property Organization, DomainIncite.com, ICANN.org and TheDomains.com.

This may seem pretty overwhelming, a bit scary and overall a potential to make the previously mentioned extensions at the beginning of this article go away; but will that actually happen someday?

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Not really. There will always be a place on the internet for good websites, optimized with quality content, relevant to readers, delivered on a consistent basis. There will always be opportunities to strengthen your company’s brand experience, regardless of your domain extension. It will have some affect on SEO, I’m sure – and it will be interesting to see how Google crawls, sorts, indexes and ranks generic and branded top level domain extensions like .yourbrand, .hotel, .drive, .watch, etc.

But being consistent while telling your story is really more important than anything else. Take this for what it’s worth – solid information that can help you stay on top of protecting your brand assets, and – unless you’re in the internet real estate business – it shouldn’t really affect you that much. But it sure is interesting to think about.

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