SURKOV DIMITRI / SHUTTERSTOCK.COM
Monitoring services are the starting point for effective action against the abuse of brand names on the internet, says Andreas Soll of Key-Systems.
The new generic top-level domain (gTLD) programme provides the domain industry and all trademark owners with new challenges.
ICANN, the organisation responsible for managing the domain name system, has created an opportunity for names of companies and products, cities and regions, as well as generic terms representing a community, to be applied for as a TLD. When the application window for new gTLDs closed on May 30, 2012, ICANN had received 1,930 applications. In the autumn of 2013 the first new TLDs were introduced and more than 500 are available today.
The new gTLD programme has changed the understanding of brand protection on the internet irreversibly. Over the medium term, brand owners need to protect their trademarks in more than 1,000 domain extensions. Historically there have been only about 300 TLD extensions.
A new situation for brand owners
Brand owners have previously had to deal with domain abuse by third parties, such as the registration of brand names and the so-called typosquatting of domains, and had to register their trademark protected terms defensively. It is feared that this cybersquatting, which has also been accompanied by phishing, plagiarism, reputational damage and unfair competition, will increase with more TLDs being available.
Feared impacts of the gTLD programme include that current strategies of trademark protection are only conditionally transferable to the new situation. The popular strategy of registering potential typosquatted domains becomes more complicated considering the number of potential new extensions that will be emerging over the next few years. Defensively registering in 1,000 TLDs is also hardly feasible from a financial viewpoint.
"Trademark monitoring means that brand owners receive alerts for already registered and recently published worldwide brands that exactly match their trademarks or are confusingly similar."
However, a variety of new mechanisms may help to handle the increased expense for monitoring brands on the internet and defending against domain abuses. These include the selection of critical terms and TLDs, selective defensive registrations in critical extensions, the registration of marks in the Trademark Clearinghouse (TMCH) and the use of blocking methods, as far as possible.
The selection of a suitable service provider for advice and registration shouldn’t be underestimated in this context. And finally, the development of a brand protection and monitoring strategy will be essential.
Brand monitoring services
Monitoring services are the starting point for effective action against the abuse of brand names on the internet. BrandShelter, the corporate domain service of Key-Systems, supports brand owners in protecting brands and trademarks on the internet, securely managing domain portfolios in general and offering comprehensive monitoring solutions in different areas.
BrandShelter’s domain monitoring service, for example, analyses domain sale platforms, free domain names and registrations in more than 1,000 TLDs, including typos and phonetic similarities. These types of monitoring protect against potential cyber attacks through the preventive identification of similar domains.
Trademark monitoring means that brand owners receive alerts for already registered and recently published worldwide brands that exactly match their trademarks or are confusingly similar. International company names, trademark applications, designs, etc, are checked."
Web content is also an area of monitoring services. As soon as a brand or name is mentioned on websites, blogs or in metatags, the brand owner will be immediately notified. It is possible to track content changes and stay up to date on the opinions about the company or brand that are posted online.
Social media monitoring is becoming increasingly important. It includes the observation of existing and new social networks and the identification of trademark infringement in user names and profiles. Furthermore, securing brands and names of company representatives as user names on social media is part of this service.
Through the (reverse) Whois service, brand owners get information about current or former owners of certain domains and gain an insight into domains that can be assigned to a specific owner by using address data. Domain Whois changes are notified. BrandShelter observes the accessibility of customers’ internet services 24/7 through the monitoring of web and mail services, DNS, FTP, traffic, etc, and informs brands immediately in case of disruptions.
New opportunities for .brand TLDs
The new gTLDs are the future of the internet and BrandShelter supports trademark owners to manage their performance using the new gTLDs. BrandShelter provides consulting for domain registration and administration under the new TLDs, the evaluation of the registration guidelines and options for legal rights protection. Further, trademark registration in the TMCH to participate in sunrise and claims phases, the preferred processing of sunrise applications and mass blocking of brand names under the TLDs of various registries are offered.
In 2014, ICANN asked the community to make a recommendation to the board on how to implement the second round; this recommendation will be presented to the board in mid 2017, so the next round of the new gTLD programme may be expected at the end of that year. This will be the chance for brand owners to create their brand or name as a standalone .brand TLD.
BrandShelter will assist companies, trademark owners, government organisations, cities, regions and communities with the conception and realisation of their own TLD, including by strategic consultation and project managing. BrandShelter’s services include providing continuous information on new application windows, benchmarking analysis of existing .brand TLDs, conception and support of new TLD applications, technical registry operation tailored to customers’ needs and the connection of the registration process to work flows in their company. It is time to be part of the new internet—think of a .brand TLD.
Andreas Soll is product manager of BrandShelter, a business area of Key-Systems. Key-Systems is an international domain registrar that administers more than four million domains for more than 100,000 retail and corporate customers and 1,800 re-sellers worldwide. He can be contacted at: email@example.com
gTLD, BrandShelter, domain names, .brand, Key-Systems