OPINION

The Bid for International Cyber Property Rights

Who would like to bid the highest amount for the exclusive global rights to the new domain suffix, .dubai, under ICANN’s latest policy? Such a suffix will create a powerful domain root that will corner some 180 services underneath it, like go.dubai, hotel.dubai, job.dubai, cars.dubai or fly.dubai.

Who would be the next global cyber-branding leader of this new millennium? Are auctions the right methods to sell such mega marketing channels? ICANN, the Internet authority, is looking into auctioning off such popular name identities.

A billion dollars going once? Billion dollars going twice … sold to the person from Russia with the diamond-studded cell phone.

Dot-Whatever

The new auction policy raises some serious questions … if the city of London had the .London domain, it could offer thousands of sub-brands to its hundreds of local services, from the main root like taxi.london, shows.london or jobs.london. This highly focused, very profitable and globally accessible marketing tool will create hundreds of new leader brands. Some 630 services may successfully operate under this new London suffix.

But if the. london suffix is offered on the auction block, there will certainly be mega funds on the table, as bidders fight all the way untill the 15th knockout round and a winner is declared, while being televised via you.bid. If this was the case, there is no way London would let this golden opportunity slip to any other outside interests and will find the big bucks at any cost.

But ideally speaking, the city of London should be the rightful owner of its own domain, and not simply because it is the highest bidder. Based on rules of the rightful ownership, a domain must be traced back to its originating party, meaning that London belongs to London city hall and Dubai belongs to Dubai.

In an interview at BBC TV following the June 30 announcement, ICANN President Dr. Paul Twomey explains the issues further.

Multilingual Internet

Soon other languages will be added on the Internet, adding billions of users and hundreds of millions of new customers online. Wales just allocated US$50,000 to lobby and study the subject, so it can stay ahead of the game and make sure the Welsh suffix, “.cym” meaning “ruler” is not picked up by some other party through the popular usage of CYM, the internet abbreviation for “check your mail.”

However, auctions will not work for thousands of other cities at all, especially when city names are shared across the continent, or the same names have already been used in hundreds of brand names all over the world since the last century. Apart from who has the first, original use, most city halls would not have the mega-bucks necessary to buy their ownership that should rightfully belong to them in the first place. There are tens of thousands of community-based programs and associations. These non-profits often use a local or regional brand name, with almost no global trademark cover, and which often end up being named with a strange combination of initials. Groups that fall into this category will have no chance to play this high-caliber, cyber branding games.

Outside the bidding on city names, there are dozens of other combinations within the business sector, where some huge and unique applications of this method would create powerful new global cyber-brand names overnight.

The Importance of Global Naming

Currently, there are a million-plus business name identities of great potential interest in this race. These businesses are huge, but their names, with the exception of very few, still do not have the necessary global cover and protection to be considered automatic winners, and they may lose out in big time global contests.

The new selection, when applied under ICANN’s rules, will have to rule in favor of all existing, globally recognized trademarked brands as the rightful owners of their own suffix. For example, .IBM, .Sony, or .PlayStation would keep their domains, but .apple and .orange may lose their ground during the process.

How many “Gulf” names are already registered? There’s everything from Gulf Air to Gulf anything in the region and across the world. Thousands of highly diluted dictionary and geographic-based or family names are in the same boat.

Somehow, name brand identities are moving toward a serious crisis, and to begin, there is a small number of names with a Five Star Standard of Naming status, and this sudden change will only point to a rude awakening. The real complexities of accidental and casual naming are appearing fast on all fronts, and very soon, each and every company will have to face the music on globally indexed charting and being a top leader within any single region will not be sufficient to win this game.

New World Naming Order

Names are for marketing, and marketing today is global. Therefore, names must be globally structured. Long gone are the days when poorly crafted local names were pushed to their limits with excessive advertising to appear global for a while.

According to the new formal study on this subject by ABC Namebank of the 500 million business names worldwide, only some 100,000 names are well known in their local markets, and only about 1,000 are globally recognized.

During the last century, most corporations felt very confident, investing unlimited budgets to create distinct logos believing that their non-exclusive name with some distinct logo provided them that unique trademark protection. This is how thousands of identical name brands and like National, Dynamic, and Quantum came about. This shortsighted naming is going to be fully tested. Names like Sony, Microsoft, Panasonic or Rolex never had to worry, as they already have Five Star Standard Status.

ICANN suggestions of auctions creating the billion-dollar domain babies is very problematic, as in each country there are always some gazillionaires that want to cherry pick the top brand name identities. A moderate fee-based system under the common laws of intellectual property is the best way forward.

The move to open domain suffixes is very mature and positive, and so is the opening into other languages. Both moves are to bring a billion more Internet users and hundreds of millions of new customers online, but the old-fashioned name identities will no longer have a place on this new global arena.

As the auction issue heats up, many sudden changes shake the foundation of the oldest and the biggest name brands around the world. Those who are aggressively engaged today in getting a deeper understanding and evaluation of their current name identities have some chance, while the rest are really headed to be drowned in the biggest domain flood of the century. Best learn to swim like a shark.


Naseem Javed is recognized as a world authority on corporate image and global cyber-branding. Author of Naming for Power, he introduced the Laws of Corporate Naming in the 1980s and also foundedABC Namebank, a consultancy established in New York and Toronto a quarter century ago. He can be reached at[email protected].


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