Optimizing Online Trademark Protections Given the Proliferation of Generic Top Level Domains

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  I. INTRODUCTION  II. BACKGROUND      A. The Internet's Basic Structure      B. The Relevant Parties          1. The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers            (ICANN)          2. Registries and Registrars          3. Cybersquatters      C. ICANN's Proposal to Expand the Number of gTLDs      D. The Application Process III. ANALYSIS      A. Problems Arising from the Proliferation of gTLDs          1. Problems Arising During the Application Process          2. Problems Arising Once Newly Appointed gTLDs Go Online      B. Current Procedures and Processes          1. Procedures for Resolving Disputes During the            Application Process          2. Some Problems with ICANN's Objection and String            Contention Procedures          3. Procedures for Resolving Disputes Once Newly Approved            gTLDs Are Launched          4. Difficulties Related to the Trademark Clearinghouse,            Sunrise Service, and Trademark Claims Service  IV. RECOMMENDATION      A. Modifications to ICANN's Community Objection Process       B. Expanding the Trademark Claims Service 

I. Introduction

Today, a person subscribed to a cable or satellite television service can instantaneously access several hundred unique channels filled with all types of programming. (1) Such variety in television content stands in stark contrast to an earlier time when only three broadcast networks--ABC, CBS, and NBC--effectively provided all of the content on television. (2) The relatively limited selection offered by these three networks, while meager by today's standards, was the accepted technological reality during those times. (3) But while television has emerged from its technological Dark Ages, today's Internet is still--by some measures--closer to television's bygone era than it is to television's current cable and satellite system.

Specifically, the Internet's hierarchical structure has remained fairly static since its inception in the 1980s. (4) In the early days of the World Wide Web, the Internet's regulatory agency established seven generic Internet Top-Level-Domains (gTLDs) such as ".com," ".net," and ".org" for public use. (5) At the end of 2012, the number of gTLDs had only modestly grown to a total of 22. (6) This is about to change. (7)

In 2011, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), which is the entity responsible for structuring the Internet, announced that it would--for the first time ever--take applications from private entities for the development of new gTLDs. (8) When the process is complete in a few years' time, over 1000 new gTLDs (9) could be added to the Internet creating a radical shift in both the way content is organized across the Internet and the way persons interact with this online content. (10) This Note explores the application process insofar as it has progressed through the end of 2012 and considers the new challenges arising from the proliferation of new gTLDs. After analyzing the application process, this Note concludes by recommending modifications to ICANN's current gTLD processes and policies that can help minimize inefficiencies in the application process and expand protections for trademark holders once the approved gTLDs become operational.

II. Background

One will need a working familiarity with the Internet's current structure to understand the significance of ICANN's new gTLD application process. To that end, this Note begins with a brief overview of the information necessary for understanding the proliferation of new gTLDs. Included within this discussion is a description of the Internet's basic structure, (11) its regulatory entities, (12) and the other relevant parties associated with the World Wide Web's overall structure. (13) This Part concludes by presenting the anticipated timeline for the new gTLD application process. (14)

A. The Internet's Basic Structure

The Internet is an international network of interconnected computers that uses a common set of communications protocols to transmit, store, and allow access to data at a high rate of speed. …