Yesterday, the new .insurance Internet top-level domain opens up to members of the insurance industry and will be awarded on a “first-come, first-served” basis. Below is what your organization needs to know about “.insurance.”
What is .insurance?
A generic top-level domain (gTLD) is best known to Internet users as the suffix at the end of a domain name, such as .com, .net, and .org. These top-level domains are managed and registered by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). In 2008, ICANN approved a program to open up the Internet to thousands of new top-level domains. Since then, nearly 15 million new sub-level domain names have been delegated under new gTLDs.
The newest TLD is .insurance, available now to members of the insurance industry. This domain will permit companies to register their brands with the .insurance suffix, such as: abc.insurance.
The domain name registrar, fTLD Registry Services (http://fsroundtable.org), has been established to operate the .insurance top-level domain. fTLD also operates the .bank domain name, which launched last year.
To ensure that .insurance can only be registered by actual insurance industry members, fTLD created several security measures and eligibility restrictions. Only verified members of the insurance community (e.g., regulated insurance companies; licensed insurance agents/agencies, brokers/brokerages or other equivalents; insurance associations and groups of associations; service providers owned by or predominantly supporting regulated insurance entities; and government regulators of insurance companies, agents/agencies, brokers/brokerages or other equivalents) can register .insurance domains. fTLD will require documentation to verify an applicant meets the criteria.
I have a federally registered trademark. Do I have to wait until June 15 to apply for a corresponding .insurance domain name?
No. Trademark owners are eligible to take advantage of a “sunrise period” and apply for their .insurance domain names beginning on May 9.
To help brand owners protect their intellectual property, ICANN has established a Trademark Clearinghouse, available at http://www.trademark-clearinghouse.com/. Owners of federally registered trademarks (or trade names or service marks) may use the Clearinghouse to record their trademarks and apply for the .insurance version of that domain name during this sunrise period. State-level or other trademarks do not qualify. The trademark owner “sunrise period” opened on May 9 and will run until June 8.
I have a registered trademark, but wish to apply for a .insurance domain name on a slightly different version of that mark. Can I take advantage of the sunrise period beginning on May 9?
No. Only trademark owners seeking to register a .insurance domain name that is identical to a trademark registration can pre-register for such a domain name beginning on May 9. Even if the domain name will differ in a minor way from what is in the trademark registration, the applicant can only apply for this .insurance domain level with the rest of the global insurance community beginning on June 15. For example, if your registered trademark is ABC INSURANCE, you can apply for abcinsurance.insurance, but not ABC.insurance.
Do I have to have my organization’s name trademarked to apply for a .insurance domain name?
No, a federally registered trademark is unnecessary to apply for a .insurance domain name. But, your organization can only apply for a domain name during the general registration period, estimated to begin on June 15, in accordance with fTLD’s so-called name selection policy, available at: https://www.ftld.com/docs/fTLD-Name-Selection-Policy-INSURANCE-20160120.pdf.
If I do not own a federally registered trademark on the name I want, what is the risk of waiting until June 15 to apply for a .insurance domain?
There may be no problem with applying for your .insurance domain when it becomes available. Potential conflicts may arise, however, for certain, ubiquitous names common in the industry and for which a variety of competing trademark rights may exist. In such cases, the first trademark owner to submit a trademark registration to the Clearinghouse during the sunrise period will be entitled to the .insurance domain name using that mark. Because it takes many months to obtain a federal trademark registration, applying for a federal trademark now (in an effort to obtain a registration before June) is probably futile.
What should I be doing to prepare my organization?
We encourage insurance industry members to review their current trademark portfolios to ensure that key brands are registered with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Insurance companies should also consider listing their registered trademarks with the Clearinghouse, as this is necessary to participate in the sunrise period. Goodwin Procter is happy to assist with these efforts.
What does this change mean for the insurance industry (and beyond)?
The new .insurance domain name will open up brand-new “Internet real estate.” Trademark and brand owners can leverage this new opportunity as yet another way to build their company’s brand online. Importantly, however, the anticipated flood of new “real estate” that will become available as part of the .insurance release will be tempered by fTLD’s mandated security measures. Because .insurance will only be available to verified members of the insurance community, this new domain name will offer increased security to users. For would-be registrants, the vetting process will include verification through the applicant’s local and national regulators.
On a broader scale, it is also worth noting that other new domain names are available, or are expected to become available in the near term. ICANN maintains a list of the hundreds of new generic top-level domains released or planned for release since October 2013, available at http://newgtlds.icann.org/en/program-status/delegated-strings. While some of these may include additional security requirements, like .insurance, many do not. Ultimately, this new “Internet real estate,” including .insurance and the many other new top-level domain names, will offer an array of new opportunities to brand owners looking to expand their company’s presence online. Many of these new domains are of particular interest to the financial services industry, including proposed gTLDs such as .bank, .credit, .finance, .investments, .loan and many others.
If you would like more information about the new .insurance domain name, assistance registering trademarks with the Clearinghouse, or have questions about this article, please contact the author.