As has been widely reported, ICANN (the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) recently approved the Internationalized Domain Name Fast Track Process at its Open Meeting in Seoul on October 30, 2009. Internationalized Domain Names (IDNs) are domain names featuring non-Latin characters before and after “the dot” – for example, imagine the domain name trademarkblog.ca where both the “trademarkblog” and the “ca” (thought it wouldn’t be .ca) are both written in Chinese characters.
The IDN Fast Track launched on November 16, 2009. As of that date, nations and territories can apply to ICANN for Internet extensions reflecting their name in characters from their national language. Criteria for acceptance include government and community support and a stability evaluation. If applications meet the criteria, successful national and territorial applicants will be approved to start accepting registrations. It is expected that use of non-Latin based scripts may begin sometime in 2010. ICANN states that as of November 16th they have already received six requests from countries/territories representing three different languages.
Perhaps jumping the gun a bit, the Russian domain name registry .RU is already accepting sunrise applications for Cyrillic character trademarks for the Cyrillic translation of .RU, although ICANN has not yet granted this extension. DotAsia announced that it plans to release IDN registrations in 2010.
While the launch of IDNs is welcome news to those who don’t use Latin characters, brand owners will want to consider carefully how best to obtain protection of their trademarks with these new IDNs. For example, careful consideration should be given to exactly how a trademark is translated into the foreign characters and also whether a registration of a transliteration or a phonetic interpretation of the trademark is warranted.