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  • Another upside to closed generic TLDs: fewer defensive registrations

    1. BY - Feb 20, 2013
    2. Uncategorized
    3. 6 Comments

    The more domains that are “closed”, the less brand protection is required.

    Last week I wrote about why I’m not concerned with companies registering generic terms as TLDs (e.g. .blog, .book) and keeping them “closed” to other parties for second level registrations.

    Today I was reminded of another benefit to some of these domains being closed, and why I find it ironic that big brands are upset over closed TLDs.

    Retail Council of Canada (RCC) sent a letter to ICANN stating its opposition to closed generic TLDs. It states:

    “Given its mandate, RCC believes that these gTLD strings should be open and unrestricted sine generic words use in a generic way belong to everyone.”

    Let’s quickly get over the fact that this statement is ridiculous (as I go try to protect my generic second level domains from the RCC).

    Instead, focus on this irony:

    For years, companies have been throwing a fit about the supposed number of defensive registrations they’d have to do at the second level of generic top level domains.

    For example, a shoe company might feel compelled to register all of its brands under .shoes.

    But if a top level domain is closed, that requirement goes away.

    In the case of .shoes, Donuts has applied for the TLD. Shoe companies might feel compelled to register nike.shoes, air.shoes, etc.

    Had Amazon applied for .shoes as a closed registry, those companies would no longer feel compelled to register the second level domains. In fact, they wouldn’t even be allowed to.

    If a company was complaining about defensive registrations, they certainly shouldn’t complain about close generics. They should embrace them.

    (I’ll note that I’m not familiar with RCC and if any of its member companies have complained about protecting their marks at the second level. But I’ll also note that the letter is worth a read because it has other funny comments. Consider this: “It will also effectively gain exclusive rights to be associated with the kind of products or services they offer, which is something that could not be achieved through tradmark laws in Canada”. The RCC is talking about TLDs, but they apparently don’t have a problem with Barnes and Noble owning book.com.)

6 Comments
  • The question is if, (and it’s a big if*) new gTLDs do 10 or 20 years down the line become to been seen as superior in consumers minds then owners of new gTLDs will have what is effectively a monopoly position gained solely through their contract with ICANN.

    This relationship which is only available to the economically advantaged offers an implicit DNS branding advantage, which the owners can use to unfairly compete against all second level domains, because if top level names are deemed superior, then second level names will be by definition be seen as inferior.

    This is different from today where second level domains from different TLDs can equitably compete (in your example books.com, books.info books.net or books.de etc.)

    *having seen the names applied for it‘s probably an even bigger if, because for all the protestations of prevention of innovation by not allowing .anything as new gTLDs we’ve yet to see much innovation.

  • Philip Corwin says:

    February 20, 2013 at 11:18 am

    There is a huge difference between .book and book.com
    A gTLD is a continent, a 2nd level domain is a street address.
    A gTLD registry operator is under contract to ICANN, which in turn is committed to serve the global public interest. Allowing generic, non-brand gTLDs to be turned into proprietary corporate colonies is not in the public interest.
    Is it in the public interest to allow .search to be owned by Google (which can prevail in any contention resolution auction) and to be run as a closed gTLD — when an open .search gTLD could be a platform for tens of thousands of cool new vertical search engines competing against Google?
    If ICANN allows closed generics in this first round there will be a rush of defensive gTLD applications in the second round from corporations seeking to lock up key generic terms for their sole use. This will fatten ICANN’s treasury but lead to a balkanized, privatized DNS.
    The history of the Internet teaches us that innovation comes from the edges, not the intermediaries. Closed generics convert gTLDs from platforms for innovation to walled gardens that lock out innovation.

    • With regards to vertical search engines: if running vertical search engines is such a great idea, they’d be taking off already. Google would run them at law.google.com, sports.google.com, etc. More importantly, competitors would be doing the same thing.

      With regards to the continent vs. street address analogy: I’m not sure I agree. You could make a strong argument that in the case of the web, a “street address” is better than having the whole “continent” from a branding perspective. Which will provide more benefit to the owner: book.com or running .book as a closed registry? I’d personally prefer book.com.

  • Philip Corwin says:

    February 20, 2013 at 1:10 pm

    Andrew–the primary benefit of a closed generic to a registry operator in the industry the term relates to is not for its own branding, but in denying access to the gTLD to competitors.

  • This author just doesn’t get it. gtlds are a threat to the established .com eco-naming system and, as such, will be rejected by businesses and consumers alike. Whether a gtld is open or closed matters not. They are all doomed to fail.

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