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Trademark Clearinghouse Fees Released

As the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) continues to roll out its new generic top-level domain (gTLD) program, the structure of the Trademark Clearinghouse is beginning to take shape. As has been well documented, the new gTLD program could fundamentally change the way brands and consumers interact online, as individuals and entities may register for an infinite number of new gTLDS. Currently, gTLDs are limited to the well-known .COM, .ORG, .NET, etc. (for more information on this, read my recent article, "Brand Protection Strategies in the New World Beyond .COM"). Brand owners are continuing to evaluate the opportunities and risks posed by the new gTLD program, and part of the evaluation is of the effectiveness of the Trademark Clearinghouse.

The Trademark Clearinghouse is the central location where brand owners can submit their valid trademarks for protection against the unauthorized registration of their trademarks as domain names. For those brand owners who sign up, the Trademark Clearinghouse will notify applicants for new gTLDs that their proposed domain name potentially infringes a valid trademark. It is not yet clear whether potential infringers will be notified of only exact matches, or whether the service considers other factors aside from an identical letter string. It is also not evident whether the brand owner will be notified, along with the applicant, of the potentially infringing domain name. If not, the Trademark Clearinghouse may be nothing more than an easily evadable deterrent for potential infringers. Nevertheless, there may be value to brand owners for signing up with the Trademark Clearinghouse.

The fee structure for the Trademark Clearinghouse was released Jan. 21, 2013. For an individual brand owner to register a single trademark with the Trademark Clearinghouse for a single year, the baseline cost is $150. With additional trademarks, the costs begin to multiply. Discounts will be provided for those brand owners who sign up for three- or five-year stints. Trademark owners could also save money by registering their marks with the Trademark Clearinghouse through “agents” who get discounts depending upon their amassed “status points.” Thus, volume discounts could apply as well. Whether the services provided by the Trademark Clearinghouse are more economical than traditional monitoring services is yet to be seen.

While there are still more questions than answers with respect to ICANN’s new gTLD program, the pieces are beginning to fall into place. Brand owners should maintain a watchful eye of these developments, as the new gTLDs could revolutionize marketing and branding on the Internet.

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