Brand Protection In An Expanding Internet Namespace

by T+B Blog Team on January 15, 2014

In the digital space, brands face an array of opportunities for growth, but they also face challenges to keep their online premises protected. This year will see the introduction of yet another string of new generic top-level domains (gTLDs) that will give brands the chance to future-proof their online business. These launches, however, will also pose certain risks, as frauds and criminals will no doubt make use of the rapidly growing digital phenomena. Given the devastating effect that brand abuse could have on a company’s reputation, customers, and revenues, preparing to cope with these risks is a must.

As the number of new gTLDs coming to the market keeps growing, brands are highly recommended to develop a strategy that could help them decide how to address them. If they eventually decide to enter their brand into new registries, they must ensure that their teams navigate the new expanded online environment. When developing a strategy, they must consider legal and risk management, budget constraints, and how to take advantage of opportunities.

With hundreds of new gTLDs to police, organizations will also need to revisit their way of protecting their trademarks and other intellectual property. This will mean moving from a strategy focused on the typical defensive domain registrations to a broader and more thoughtful one that focuses on heightened risk of brand abuse and the detection of domains that impinge on trademarks and hamper traffic.

An adequate brand protection strategy will also help organizations retain the trust they have built with consumers, who are nowadays increasingly looking for a consistent brand experience across all channels and in search of the best deals. Brandjackers are making use of this trend, coming up with fake sites and apps that look unique at first sight to attract traffic and sell counterfeit goods. Companies will only maintain consumer trust if they devise wise protection strategies that shield clients from brand impersonators.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

William Stahl January 17, 2014 at 3:22 pm

I just returned from the NamesCon New TLD conference in Las Vegas. The new TLD registries & their investors were there, obviously, but the domainers were there in force for the first time – they’ve decided it’s time to jump in (that’s the cue for TM lawyers to groan). A very excited crowd, knowing that it is (finally) showtime- they’ll soon find out who succeeds and who fails. Brand/TM holders & their POV were notably absent but there were interesting lessons in what new TLDs mean for them. They don’t want or need to move all their websites under a .brand (many don’t have one), and they can’t register defensively in so many TLDs. Instead, the value is in creating digital experiences apart from their home page – ‘runway.chanel’, ‘jcrew.wedding’ – and targeting the affinity groups that will form around successful new TLDs. Brand holders are watching Google (as usual), as well as Amazon and Microsoft. All three have bet on their own list of TLDs and they will drive consumer adoption. My sense is that when big brand holders held back from applying for their own TLD it was because they lacked an internal evangelist, a CDO or anyone who owns digital and has senior management’s ear. Without that, new TLDs fell into the usual Bermuda Triangle of TM legal, IT, and marketing – where decisions go to die. (“Is that coming out of MY budget?”)

The industry buzz is that registrants will shop less for a domain name than for an identity and an affiliation. The user base for a TLD is its real monetary value, and that’s much more than an email list. TLDs will try to enlist each registrant in a ready-made social network, in some cases offering a ready-made home page with social tools. If they are right, ‘social’ will fragment into smaller but more intense and durable networks, which is hardly what Facebook and Twitter want to hear. Neither FB and Twitter applied for a single TLD. Perhaps they lacked an internal evangelist precisely because the sermon would have made some unwelcome assumptions?

On another note: registry renewals are a great cash machine even when the TLD is used mostly for defensive registrations (.BIZ is an example) but that will be a small part of the revenue opportunities of a successful affinity-based TLD. Existence of these additional revenue streams will be a benchmark for investors who still see the industry as too fragmented for large investments. Under-capitalized registries, already exhausted by the long march through the ICANN wilderness, will soon find that they have underestimated marketing costs and overestimated registrations. They’ll be rolled up by those who have it right as soon as they have real-world track records to be valued by, and Wall Street will move.

Brand holders too will then learn where they must focus their attention, both to register and litigate.

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