Impact of New Top-Level
This Law Review was written by
Lisa A. Stegink and edited by
Jed Mandel, both of whom are
founding members of Chicago
Law Partners, LLC. CLP serves
as the Association Forum’s general counsel.
Q: Please explain the new program for
top-level Internet domain names, and
what it might mean for our association.
A. Top-level domain names are the
generic letter extensions at the end of an
Internet domain name (e.g., .org, .com,
.net, .gov, .us, .ca). Currently, 22 generic
top-level domains (g TLDs) are used, and
all are in Latin characters.
Starting this month, organizations
may apply for and operate their own
top-level domains (TLDs) — generic and
otherwise — in any language or script.
For example, organizations could apply
for “community” (e.g., .nurse, .sports),
“brand” (e.g., .associationforum) or other
types of TLDs (e.g., .chicago, .ilovenyc).
By applying for a new TLD, an organization essentially becomes a domain name
registrar and can establish the criteria for
who may obtain a domain name using
that TLD. For example, if the Association
Forum of Chicagoland applied for and
obtained the TLD “.associationforum,” it
would control who was entitled to use
“.associationforum” in its domain name.
Organizations may initially apply
for new TLDs between Jan. 12 and April
12, 2012. The Internet Corporation for
Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN)
is the registry for all TLDs used on the
web and is in charge of implementing the
application process. ICANN estimates
between 300 and 1,000 new TLDs could
be created each year under the new program, although they will allow only 500
applications during the initial application
period, with later application periods
to follow. The evaluation process may
range from nine to 20 months, depending
on the application, intended usage and
other issues. ICANN expects the first new
TLDs to appear within a year, but end
users likely won’t see new domains until
The application fee is substantial:
$185,000. Applicants must undergo back-
ground checks — criminal, cybersquat-
ting history — and must demonstrate
they are financially, operationally and
technically capable of operating a TLD.
ICANN also will review whether there are
existing trademarks that may have an
impact on the proposed new TLD. Includ-
ing the application fee, the first-year
costs to applicants to complete the pro-
cess and set up supporting infrastructure
are estimated to be as high as $500,000.
The answers provided here should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion. Consult a
lawyer concerning your specific situation or legal