Monday, May 4, 2015

What new gTLD applicants want for Round 2

After talking to a few new gTLD applicants who participated in "Round One" of the ICANN new gTLD program, here is a list of complaints and questions I received, and probably a few things potential candidates should pay attention to prior to submitting an application:

Applying is too expensive, I want my TLD for $200,000!
Applying for a new gTLD is expensive but ICANN is the organization to allow an applicant and it has costs too: technical ones, legal and administrative ones and since the process is long, it has to pay a lot of employees to ensure that new TLDs are inserted into its root for end-users to be able to read new domain names.
Now, many lessons were learnt from "Round one" and if there are few doubts that the ICANN fee will be lowered (the $185,000), it is possible that service providers will lower their fee too.

Preparing a new gTLD application involves time to fill-in the ICANN form (the famous 50 questions) and a few meetings are necessary with clients. Financial questions should be considered seriously but many templates exist for other questions.

Back-End Registries, Corporate Registrars taking applications and other law firms are pretty much informed on how to submit an application and simplify filling-in the ICANN form(s). It should cost less to apply in Round 2 and a good thing to know is that is now easy to limit the number of parties involved in an application...to reduce costs.

Applying for $200,000 could be possible but not to forget a few things:
  • a back-end Registry will charge an applicant per domain name registered each year;
  • there can be other fees such as Dispute Resolution filing and evaluation fees;
  • ICANN charges a Registry $6,250 per calendar quarter so expect a $25,000 more to ICANN each year;
  • Added to this is a $0,25 to ICANN per domain name registered (above 50.000 domains);
  • You will have to pay your escrow agent (mandatory) and probably...to monitor abuses;
  • Paying a team during the registration process is not necessary but it is up to you.
Why is now my lawyer in the opposite camp?
Be selective when choosing your lawyer and ensure that he remains with you until the end of your new gTLD procedure (and the end of procedure means: "when you have launched your Registry and started selling domains", not "when you have submitted your application to ICANN"). Round one was impressive in demonstrating that there is just no ethic when it comes to wining a market.
Not to forget a TLD is unique and there can be only one winner.
The same applies with great ideas and nice considerations when it comes to "protecting identities" (ie: sports TLDs or artistic TLDs) or "specific communities" (ie: wine geographical indications or community TLDs): having a NDA signed can be far from enough and when your lawyer leaves you to your competitor - or to fight against your TLD - it can mean that...you loose your application.

There were too many applicants for my TLD (domain name extension)!
Well, if you told all potential partners about your great string, it is important to know that - AGAIN - NDAs don't block anybody from saying that X is about to apply for ".WHATEVER". The new gTLD world is very small and there are few back-end Registries. In simple words, it is very difficult to know when the time is right to tell about your string but the latest, the better.
Note about Back-end Registries: if some are able to take your application entirely and this means from A to Z, they can have the idea to submit the same application as you...for themselves. Be very cautious with who you talk to...

How do I get away from my Back-end Registry without having to pay a hefty termination fee?
I have had that question twice already and note that some Back-End Registries can be very expensive compared to what is really necessary for an application. A Back-End Registry is a provider like another and any provider wants to keep his clients with him and blocking him with a termination fee is not unfair, here is why:
  • Leaving a Back-End Registry requires work from him;
  • Some "Back-Ends" did more than expected (and this means answering many phone calls to adding paper work when a client - for instance - had to deal with ICANN for a procedure;
  • You never "buy" your new gTLD with no knowledge: you always need assistance, unless you work at ICANN ;-) 
Some back-ends do not have a termination free but it is possible that they all do in Round 2! Now, if you want to move away from your back-end, I know lawyers with absolutely no ethic who could be willing to help.

.SUCKS does not help improve our society
I agree with this bur whether this new gTLD helps the society or not does not really matter because consumers are the one to decide about if it should be tolerated or not. At least, it is the answer you will probably receive if  you ask the ICANN. In the case of domain names ending in .sucks, consumers have decided that it should exist...whatever the complaints ICANN received (try with "sucks" searching by string).

There are many groups at ICANN to work on these questions and then to address its Board. Surprisingly, the largest group now complaining about this "mistake" in the ICANN new gTLD program is the one of the Intellectual Property; but one should not forget something: if no law firm contested or tried to make their best to block this TLD from existing, it is because...it is this same group who will invoice you when you are infringed.

Let's face it: would you invest your own money trying to block such TLD when it can bring business to you and generate cash? If you are a law firm, take advantage of this, and if you are a consumer, a Registrant, ask the NCUC about this. I'd love to read what they have to say.

So yes...new gTLD ".sucks" does not improve our society but you will pay for it anyway. Now, why ICANN tolerates such a domain name extension to exist? Well, ask them: newgtld@icann.org (and come share your answer here...if you ever receive one).

Register your Trademark using an agent.