Domain Name Theft

Are you safe from the web bandits?

ICANN (the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) is currently in the process of finalising the applications procedure for thousands of new generic Top Level Domains (gTLDs) to be made available later this year.

A gTLD is the technical term for the suffixes which appear at the end of Internet addresses and are used to route traffic through the Internet and the expansion of availability is aimed at allowing for “more innovation, choice and change” in a world with 1.5 billion Internet users. Currently there are only 21 gTLDs (such as .com, .co.uk, .net and .org) and, whilst the expansion will undoubtedly present new opportunities for businesses, there are concerns, not least in respect of brand protection.

Industry commentators continue to warn of the risks of domain name theft by ‘web bandits’, who obtain domain name registrations illegally – by presenting fake requests to domain name registrars to transfer registrations – and then sell them to unsuspecting third parties. There is evidence that older domain names are particularly vulnerable because these have a higher value in the secondary market. A domain name is a highly valuable piece of IP, especially if your business trades online.

It is therefore important to make sure that both your domain name registration and trademark registration are up to date – and, once the application process is finalised by ICANN later this year, keep an eye out for new gTLD applications that could infringe your brand.