Until the launch of the New gTLD Program, TLD launches were relatively straightforward. They generally consisted of a Sunrise Period, a Landrush Phase, and then General Availability. We would see the occasional Grandfather Phase or “Founders” program, but all in all, launches were pretty standard and straightforward.
Things started to change with the launch of the new gTLD program. Not only did the volume of launches increase, causing brand owners to make tough decisions about what and where to register, we were introduced to new launch phases, including Early Access Programs (EAP) and controversial pricing models. When the .SUCKS registry announced its pricing model earlier this year, most brand owners were upset and felt like they were being penalized by having to pay more to protect their brands.
While the .SUCKS pricing model has been quite controversial, we’re starting to see other registries follow suit. One particular registry recently announced their “Brand Protection Premium Domains" and it's anticipated that most trademarks, brand names and company names will be on their Premium Domains list. Brand holders with brands/trademarks on this list that do not reserve their domain during the Sunrise phase will have to pay more than double to register their domain during General Availability.
Another registry recently announced a similar program. Their “Protected Names” program, designed to further protect well-known entities, will consist of reserved high profile brands and names in music, sport, TV, film, celebrities, clubs, publishing and other sectors which may have fan bases. Brand holders with brands/trademarks on the Protected Names list that do not reserve their domain during the Sunrise Phase will have to pay additional fees to register their domain during General Availability.
How will brand owners react to these types of launches and inflated registration fees? Will we see even more registries implement this type of pricing model? Brand owners will have to continue making tough decisions about what, where, and when to register. For some brand owners, it may be more cost effective to register during the Sunrise period, where available. For others, they may want to wait to see if any infringement occurs and take action when necessary.
Stay tuned, I have a feeling this will continue to get very interesting.