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Impending Launch of .CLOTHING & Other Fashion-Related gTLDs: Is Your Company Prepared?

As you may have heard, we are on the verge of a vast expansion of the Internet.

Currently, there are only about two dozen generic top-level domains (“gTLDs”), such as .com, .net, and .info. However, there will soon be more than 1,000 new gTLDs, many of which are relevant to companies in the fashion and luxury goods industries. For example, third parties have applied for the right to operate .clothing and .fashion as new gTLDs. Other notable applications include .beauty, .boutique, .buy, .design, .home, .life, .lifestyle, .living, .luxe, .luxury, .sale, .shoes, .shop, .shopping, .store, and .style. Finally, a handful of premier fashion brands opted to apply for the exclusive right to operate the gTLD matching their brand, including .cartier, .chanel, .gucci, .hermes, and .tiffany, and some department stores also choose to apply for their brands, such as .bloomingdales. Fashion and luxury brands must therefore consider the impact of this gTLD expansion on their business and decide how to proceed, both offensively and defensively.

Given the large number of new gTLDs, companies will need a comprehensive strategy for proceeding, taking into account cost constraints and business realities. One option may be to register your company’s core trademarks in the Trademark Clearinghouse (TMCH). Participation in the TMCH means your company will receive advance notice when a third party tries to register your exact trademark as a second-level domain during the initial launch of a new gTLD. A second-level domain is the information that comes directly before the “dot” (e.g. YOURBRAND.fashion). Importantly, registration in the TMCH also allows you to participate in sunrise periods for the new gTLDs, meaning your company will get the first opportunity to register its exact trademark as a second-level domain before the gTLD opens up to general registration.

For marks that are not in the TMCH, companies can register second-level domains once the gTLDs are open for general registration. A fashion company might register a second-level domain in a gTLD because it wants to operate a new website (e.g. www.YOURBRAND.sale), or because it wants to prevent the website from falling into the hands of a competitor or cybersquatter (e.g. www.YOURBRAND.sucks). Finally, fashion and luxury companies should consider enlisting a third-party watch service to monitor the Internet for infringing domain name registrations.

The time to act is now. It was recently announced that the sunrise period for nine gTLDs, including .clothing, will open on October 29 and will run through early January. Thus, there is just a short amount of time to register your fashion-related trademarks in the TMCH to be eligible for participation in the .clothing sunrise period.

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