Domain name watching enters new phase with non-Latin IDNs

Brand owners have been advised to review domain name watching activities after the process for transforming the Internet with internationalized domain names (IDNs) in non-Latin script opened earlier today.

At midnight UTC, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) started accepting requests from representatives of countries and territories around the world for new internet extensions that represent their country name and are made up of non-Latin characters.

The change will usher in a new era of domain name management for brand owners, many of whom note that up to 90% of their domain name portfolio is defensive.”Most firms that offer trademark watching offer domain name watching,” said Nick Wood, managing director of Com Laude. “But none of them offer anything any good when it comes to IDNs. Trademark owners have on the whole been grateful that IDNs have not existed so far because, in terms of IP protection, it’s been easier when domains have all been in Latin script.”

ICANN is nevertheless going ahead with the scheme, which should open up the Web for the diverse internet community, as countries will be able to operate country-code top-level domains in their own script, such as Arabic, Chinese or Hindi. “This is the biggest technical change to the Internet’s addressing system – the domain name system – in many years,” said Tina Dam, ICANN’s senior director of internationalized domain names. “Right now, it’s not possible to get a domain name entirely in, for example, Arabic characters. This is about to change.”

Once the requests are evaluated and approved, internet extensions are expected to come online in many countries during 2010. ICANN has assured brand owners that rights will be protected under the new process but it is not yet clear exactly how (for background, see “Seoul mates: how brand owners connected with domainers via ICANN“).

“Mark owners that have a trademark under a non-IDN will be looking to see whether they’re going to be given the nod to register an IDN first or whether they’ll have to compete with a third party in a pre-launch rights mechanism,” noted Wood. “Both those cases will result in extra costs for brand owners.”


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