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HP, RIM, ARM among thousands in ICANN dot-brand ban

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ICANN's decision to open the floodgates to hundreds of new generic top-level domains last week is expected to create a land-rush of "dot-brand" internet addresses.

To date, fewer than six companies, notably including Canon, Hitachi and Deloitte, have publicly expressed their intention to acquire a branded gTLD.

But domain registry service providers estimate that the number of applications filed for dot-brands – the .pepsis and .nikes of the world – will be closer to 1,000 before the 12 April filing deadline.

While the level of enthusiasm for gTLDs among brand owners is mixed (to put it mildly), it's a little-known fact that some brands will not even qualify for their own vanity addresses.

Many companies will have a hard time securing their dot-brand – or may be banned outright – due to some of the stringent and occasionally esoteric rules ICANN has adopted.

Some brands will be banned on technical grounds. Others will be rejected because they match the names of geographic areas where ICANN has promised national governments the right of veto.

We estimate that there are tens of thousands of strings that have some degree of special protection under ICANN's new gTLD programme, and we've compiled a list of over 5,000, some of which capture well-known brands.

Here's a sample of five brands banned for five different reasons.

HP

HP is just one example of a brand that is simply too short to pass muster with ICANN. The organisation has banned any gTLD shorter than three characters in order to avoid confusion with country-code domains, which will retain exclusive use of the two-character space.

The .hp domain suffix, along with hundreds of other currently unused two-character combinations, is therefore verboten. So is .h-p, because hyphens are also banned.

HP could apply for .hewlettpackard, but would it really want to saddle itself with such an ugly address?

It's hardly surprising that the biggest objector to the ICANN new gTLD programme has been the Association of National Advertisers, which has as its chairman Gary Elliott, HP's vice-president of brand marketing.

RIM

BlackBerry maker Research in Motion may well be able to successfully apply for .blackberry or .bbm, but if it wants to apply for .rim it has a problem.

ICANN has put in place special rules protecting the names of capital cities "in any language", and it turns out that "Rim" is the Slovenian name for Rome.

If RIM wants to apply for .rim and have it pass ICANN's geographic names review, it will likely have to secure a letter of support or non-objection from the Italian government.

Tata Group

Indian uber-conglomerate Tata Group has a similar issue. Tata, it turns out, is an administrative region of Morocco and is therefore a protected sub-national place name under ICANN's rules.

The $83 billion company could well be forced to seek the consent of Tata, a city of just 15,000 inhabitants, before it would be able to secure the .tata address.

ARM Holdings

If the publicly held British chip-designer ARM Holdings decided for some reason it could not live without the dot-brand address .arm, it would be out of luck.

ICANN has also placed hundreds of three-character strings used to represent countries on the banned list, and ARM is on it as a short code for Armenia. Many other brands will be knocked back by this rule.

888

While new gTLDs are expected to be attractive for gambling services – due to the ability to place a registry in a friendly legal jurisdiction – the popular poker site 888 will not be able to get its own .888 top-level domain, due to the blanket ban on numbers to the right of the dot.

Numeric gTLDs would be indistinguishable from IP addresses, which would cause all kinds of security risks, so they've been ruled out permanently. Companies such as 118118 and 3 also face this problem.

ICANN did not design its new gTLD program with dot-brands at the forefront of its mind, and the fact that brand owners do not have a level playing field when applying is one consequence.

When ICANN starts evaluating its new gTLD applications this summer, we expect to see companies potentially fall foul of these rules on protected strings.

This article is an edited extract of a white paper, Five Thousand Strings That May Get Your gTLD Application Rejected, that first appeared on DomainIncite PRO.

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