ICANN, which basically controls non-country level internet addresses, launched its Trademark Clearinghouse service on Tuesday in an attempt to meet the intellectual property protection challenges posed by the impending roll out of potentially over 1,800 new generic Top Level Domains (gTLDs). As it says itself:
“The Trademark Clearinghouse (TMCH) is the most important rights protection mechanism built into ICANN’s new gTLD program. Operators of new gTLDs will be responsible for implementing certain rights protection mechanisms, supported by the TMCH.”
The Trademark Clearinghouse will allow trademark owners to protect their brands as the new gTLDs start issuing domain names. Registered trademark owners can list their trademarks annually on the TMCH register at any time, or right now before any of the new gTLD registrars start to operate. TMCH is calling this Early Bird registration. Trademarks listed during this Early Bird period will not expire on the first anniversary of their listing date, but will last until the day before the first anniversary of the first gTLD starting its ‘sunrise period’ (you can see what ‘sunrise period’ means just below). This means that the trademark will be protected for approximately three to five months longer.
What are the benefits listing?
There are two major benefits to listing a trademark on the TMCH register.
First is what is called the sunrise period that allows trademark holders who have filed their trademarks with TMCH to register an identical domain name for any gTLD before the public is free to apply for those domain names.
Second is a trademark claims service, which will send warnings to people who try to register a website using a trademark owned by someone else. If that person still registers the website, ICANN will notify the trademark owner and the owner can use the options it currently has to try to cancel the website registration.
The cost of registering a trademark in the Trademark Clearinghouse ranges from US$95 for the biggest filers to US$150 a year for a single registration by a trademark owner. While the TMCH service isn’t free, there’s little other downside for trademark owners who participate, and you should list if you want your brands to be protected during the new gTLD roll-out, or if you want to look at new marketing opportunities that are about to open up.
While it is an add-on to your existing trademark and domain watch services, the benefits and rights attached to the TMCH listing do make it an attractive proposition, even if only for the first few years to see how the brave new world of domain names develops alongside new ways of accessing online content. Despite this we do have reservations about how effectively it will assist trademark protection in the face of the explosion in new domains. But that’s no reason not to be prepared.
If you have any questions on the Trademark Clearinghouse you can call Michael Fitzsimons directly on +353 (0)41 9843534 for advice and information on our Trademark Clearing House registration and management service.