Over the past few years, many new domain extensions have expanded the namespace. They add an abundance of possibilities for organizations and professionals who have a growing need to position their work online. Nowadays, there are around 1,500 new gTLDs on the global domain market. The launch of these domain extensions onto the market is structured into different phases, prioritizing trademark holders and the registry's interest in premium domains.
This article explains how the launch of a new gTLD is structured and what you can do to protect your trademark in the digital namespace.
What are the different phases of new gTLD registration?
A new gTLD goes through different phases before registrations are open to everyone on the global market. The first step is always the Sunrise Period, but the process and timing before reaching General availability (GA) can vary. The launch phases differ from registry to registry, often depending on the expected number of customers and the anticipated impact on the global domain industry.
Let's take a detailed look at the launch phases of a new gTLD and how registrants interested in protecting their brand should proceed.
The Sunrise Period
During this phase, the newly-born gTLD is available only for those who have performed the Trademark Clearinghouse (TMCH) procedure. In fact, the Sunrise Period is explicitly designed for registered trademarks. You can preregister the domain name matching your brand name and similar ones. In this way, ICANN created a mechanism to protect brand identities on the web. What happens if there are multiple requests for the same domain name? In this case, an auction determines the future domain name holder.
New gTLDs registry should offer a Sunrise Period for at least 30 days, as stated in ICANN's Applicant Guidebook. To participate in the Sunrise Period, registrants have to pay a participation fee and the annual fee for that specific TLD. Unfortunately, applying for the registration during the Sunrise Period does not guarantee that the applicant will actually be able to register the relevant domain. In the event of rejection, only the annual fee is usually refunded. If the application succeeds, registrants do not own the domain name protected by the trademark forever. The validity period for the registration usually lasts for around two years. After that, you should not forget to renew it.
Read our interview with Giovanni Seppia from EURid to learn more about the relationship between domain names and trademarks.
After the Sunrise Period and before the next phase, the registry may apply a Quiet Period in which registrations are not possible. The registry reviews all the received applications during this time, before moving to the next step.
Based on the procedure, we can distinguish between two types of Sunrise Period. Registries are free to use one of the two modus operandi without advance notice.
The End-date Sunrise is structured as an auction. The registry collects all applications within 60 days and the registrations are carried out at the end of this period.
There is no auction for this kind of Sunrise. Trademark claims are processed on a first-come, first-served basis. In this case, the opening date should be announced at least 30 days in advance and the duration must be 30 days. Very few registries chose this procedure. It is not particularly well received as it causes alarm for trademark holders.
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The Landrush Period
This phase follows the Sunrise Period, dedicated to the trademark holder with TMCH, and precedes General Availability. It lasts for around 30 days and is optional since not all registries operate it. Within this period, the new gTLD is available with "premium access", which means that anyone can register it at a higher price than the regular annual registration fee. The Landrush Period offers the chance to register high-value domains, so registrants might be willing to pay a considerably higher sum of money. Some registries may create auctions for selling specific premium domains.
Early Access Program (EAP)
Before launching the TLD to the public, some registries may run an Early Access Program (EAP) in place of a classic Landrush Period. The program lasts around a week, allowing registrants to get their desired domain name beforehand. But in this case, the premium price drops day by day, starting from a higher price reaching a lower one on the last day, though the final price in the program will remain higher than the one for General Availability (GA). For example, the pricing of an EAP might look something like this:
EAP day 1 - $10,000
EAP day 2 - $8,000
EAP day 3 - $6, 000
EAP day 4 - $4,500
EAP day 5 - $3,000
EAP day 6 - $1,000
EAP day 7 - $500
GA - $200
The registrations are carried out on a first-come, first-served basis. The registrant pays the premium price for the first registration but the renewal is regular. Donuts was the first registry to use this system and other registries like Google Registry have also adopted it.
A domain can be forever... unless you forget to renew it! If you fail to meet this critical deadline, don't panic. You often have the chance to recover it. Read more to find out how.
General Availability (GA)
General Availability is a standard period in the tech industry, describing the moment when software or products become commercially available. In the domain industry, GA represents the public new gTLD launch at the regular annual fee on a first-come, first-served basis. Registries can reach this final step within a week or after many months. Some registries may set special requirements to register their extensions, such as being an accredited professional in a specific sector, like for .accountants or .cpa, or running a specific legal corporate entity, like for .gmbh, .ltda and .srl.
The Trademark Claims Period
After the Sunrise Period and before GA, every gTLD has a Trademark Claims Period for at least the first 90 days. When a claims period is in operation, the registrant trying to register a domain name matching a trademark recorded in the TMCH is notified. If the registrant chooses to go ahead with the registration for that domain, the trademark holder gets a notification from the TMCH about the domain name registration.
Trademark protection from the Sunrise Period and beyond
The TMCH Service provided by InterNetX checks and transfers data to the TMCH database, protecting your trademark rights under almost all new gTLDs. With the TMCH Agent Service, InterNetX provides you with several extras regarding performance, service and support. Due to the centralized storage of data, time-consuming individual validations for each Sunrise phase are no longer necessary.
And with Trademark Research, a powerful toolbox, you can perform searches for intelligent domain monitoring and brand control.