Companies that own federal trademark registrations should mark their calendars for March 26.
Why? Because that is when a newly formed "trademark clearinghouse" will launch. The purpose of the clearinghouse is to protect trademark owners as the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the group that creates Internet domain name space, opens up for registration unprecedented new types of "top level" domain name extensions.
While ".com" is currently the top level extension of choice for most businesses, companies the world over will soon be able to create new extensions, and set rules for who can register domain names within them. Whatever your industry, there is likely to be a new top-level extension unveiled in the coming years that will describe it.
For example, suppose you own a consulting company called Yinzer Consulting. Your current Web address might be yinzerconsulting.com. Soon, new "top-level" extensions like .consulting will be eligible for creation by a company or industry group, which could then allow registration within the extension, such that someone could register yinzer.consulting.
You should want your company to be the one that gets to register that domain. While the domain name registration system traditionally has been "first come, first served," the trademark clearinghouse amends this rule for the new extensions.
Whenever a new top-level extension is created (which will occur on a rolling basis), trademark owners participating in the clearinghouse will be afforded a "sunrise" period in which they can register the domain corresponding with their trademark before the general public has the opportunity to do so.
Additionally, after the sunrise period is over, participation in the clearinghouse means would-be poachers will be warned should they attempt to register a domain name that corresponds with a trademark registration in the clearinghouse.
While they will not be prevented from proceeding, they will be placed on notice that the registration could conflict with a mark owner's rights (and your company, as the mark owner, would be notified, too).
The cost of registering one trademark in the clearinghouse is $145 per year. Go to www.trademark-clearinghouse.com for more information.
-- Jacob H. Rooksby
Assistant Professor of Law
Duquesne University School of Law
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