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As the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) gears up to begin delegating up to 1,000 new generic top-level domains (gTLDs) in little more than six months, brand owners are strategizing how to protect their brands in the journey toward the “Internet of the Future,” or at least they should be. While the applicant guidebook provides for some rights protection mechanisms (RPMs), some companies are concerned that that these RPMs are inadequate and are pressing for greater protections. Whether ICANN agrees to supplement or change the existing routes available for brand protection, brand owners should be aware of and may need to implement brand protection strategies in either the pre-delegation and post-delegation phases (or both) in order to adequately safeguard their rights in the new gTLD expansion.
The main avenue for challenging a potentially infringing TLD application in the pre-delegation phase is filing a “legal rights” objection using the formal objections process. When a company files a legal rights objection, an independent panel determines whether the applied-for use of the new gTLD: