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Intellectual property warning for brands ahead of ICANN web domain rollout

The introduction of new Top Level Domains (TLDs) by ICANN could present serious copyright challenges for brands after research from the ICANN-approved Trademark Clearinghouse revealed domain names related to British brands are already being sought by third parties.

Warning: Brands could face copyright challenges

According to the research, “unknown entities” have already pre-reserved interest in registering the domain names of 80 per cent of the UK’s 50 most-valuable under the .WEB domain name. The research also showed that third parties have attempted to pre-order 78 per cent of the UK’s top 50 most-valuable brands under the .ONLINE domain, 70 per cent under .SHOP and 68 per cent under .BLOG.

Jonathan Robinson, strategic consultant to the Trademark Clearinghouse, said: “Although the new gTLD programme is set to enhance competition, innovation, and consumer choice on the Internet, our research shows that some of the UK’s biggest brand names are at risk of IP infringement online as new TLDs are rolled out - with other parties keen to capitalise on the traffic and illegitimate opportunities a branded website will generate. This potentially compromises the reputation of each brand targeted.”

When ICANN decided to open up the web to new gTLDs it received nearly 2,000 requests from companies, brands and organisation trying to secure related domains. By the end of this year, ICANN will have allocated 1,400 new domains, as opposed to the 22 in use over the evolution of the internet.

The move was described by one senior ICANN official as “the biggest change to the internet since its inception”, with brands such as Amazon, Google and Nike quick to submit applications to secure domains.

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