While the new top-level domain names extensions appear on the market, the Trademark Clearing House (TMCH) has revealed a report highlighting an alarming risk of cybersquatting in relation to major US companies’ domain names.
The TMCH is a mechanism set up by ICANN allowing the protection of trademark owners in the expansion of new top-level domain names. It allows the reporting of data related to trademarks in a centralised database before and during the launch of new top-level domain name extensions.
The TMCH study made on new extensions like <.web>, <.online>, <.blog> <.shop> and <.app> demonstrates that United States’ 50 most famous brands have all been pre-registered by unofficial parties. It further reveals that half of these trademark owners do have any principle domain names in existing extensions like <pepsi.us> or <kelloggs.net>. Also, Jonathan Robinson, Strategic Consultant to TMCH considered that “all brand names are at risk of intellectual property infringement online as the new TLDs are rolled out”.
Nonetheless, mechanisms have been set up to prevent these types of situations. Registration at TMCH therefore allows trademark owners to enforce their brands and to benefit from a preferential right of reservation during the priority period of Sunrise. Registration at TMCH also allows to be informed of all undue registration of domain names reproducing or imitating a trademark. Jonathan Robinson further stated that “prevention is better that cure” and that “by recording marks in the Clearinghouse, businesses will be safe in the knowledge that they have made the cornerstone investment in brand protection in new TLDs”.
More than 80% of the major US brands have already acceded to alternative dispute resolution procedures relating to domain names such as UDRP procedures. While cases of cybersquatting are expected to increase with the new top-level domain name extensions, the TMCH’s objective is to prevent such litigations.
If the aim of cyber squatters is to divert internet traffic on their websites by means of suggestive domain names, the medium-term objective is to negotiate at a reasonable price the domain names registered without the brand owners’ knowledge. The role of the TMCH in this context is essential for brand owners.
Dreyfus & associés is a TMCH accredited agent. For more information, please do not hesitate to contact us.