.BRAND Differentiation? Not in the Applicant Guidebook.

FairWinds Partners —  February 7, 2012

Because our business is working with brand owners, we launched this blog to address some of the issues that brand owners face and concerns they have when it comes to new gTLDs. As a result, we devote a good deal of time to discussing .BRAND gTLDs. By .BRAND, we mean the domain name extensions that companies apply for to correspond with their brand names, whether it be their core business name, like .TOYOTA for Toyota, or a branded product or service name, like .CAMRY.

The .BRAND categorization, while useful for many purposes, is actually not recognized in ICANN’s new gTLD Applicant Guidebook. The Guidebook only distinguishes between two kinds of applications: community-based applications, which must pass a fairly rigorous test proving that they represent a sizable and recognized community; and standard applications, which are pretty much all other applications that don’t qualify as community-based.

Standard applications can include both .BRAND and .GENERIC gTLDs, as well as both open-registry and closed-registry model gTLDs. For all intents and purposes, the Guidebook does not distinguish between any of these in terms of policies and processes. As ICANN points out on its Frequently Asked Questions page of the New gTLD microsite, .BRAND applicants will have to comply with all the requirements enumerated in the Guidebook.

That is not to say, though, that brand owners cannot leverage the fact that they are corporate applicants in their answers to certain application questions. For example, brand owners may have an easier time answering many of the financial capability questions because they represent established, successful businesses. Similarly, publicly traded companies can automatically pass the general business diligence portion of ICANN’s background screening. This applies to brand owners who apply for .BRAND as well as .GENERIC gTLDs.