Brands Brace for Deluge of New Domains in April

P&G, Coca-Cola, Microsoft and dozens more call for a pre-emptive strike

The launch of hundreds of new top-level domains, such as dot-app, dot-music, even dot-sucks, is only two months away, and skittish advertisers are bracing for a return to the Web’s Wild West days.

“It’s going to be a bigger budget item for brand owners,” warned Joanne Ludovici, a partner at McDermott Will & Emery, a Washington, D.C.-based law firm that represents brands and domain name registries. “It will be expensive and chaotic.”

To protect trademarks from squatters and phishers, the International Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers has a trademark clearinghouse and a rapid suspension system. But that gives advertisers little assurance since they must then pre-emptively register millions of second-level domain names.

In the last few weeks, the Association of National Advertisers and more than 60 companies, including Procter & Gamble, Coca-Cola, Time Warner, Microsoft and General Mills, have sent comments to Icann that call for a limited preventative registration (LPR). For a fee, the LPR would enable companies to block registration of their trademarks across all Internet domain registries.

Such a provision, however, would take time, and Icann CEO Fadi Chehadé “remains focused” on the April rollout.

Without added protections, advertisers fear the worst. But in the end, it could be consumers who suffer the most if they can’t trust or find a brand name on the Internet.