The new gTLD .casino opens to the public on June 3. Trademark owners may be able to register their trademark as a .casino domain name ahead of the public launch. The “sunrise” early registration period for trademark owners opened March 24 and ends May 23. .casino domain name registrations are available now for trademark owners that have already recorded their marks with the trademark clearinghouse (TMCH). As explained below, there is still time for mark owners that have not yet recorded marks with the TMCH to participate in the sunrise registration period.
Gaming enterprises should do what they can to protect their trademarks in the .casino gTLD prior to June 3. Given the proliferation of online gaming, the new gTLD .casino poses a particularly high risk to trademark owners in the gaming industry. The .casino gTLD is a regulated gTLD, meaning registrants must represent that they have the appropriate licenses and credentials and must report any material changes to the registry. However, in many jurisdictions, the licensing process is far less strict than it is in the U.S. and it is not clear how the registry plans to verify such representations.
Risks Associated with .CASINO
The gTLD .casino is one of hundreds of new gTLDs launched as part of the first phase of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN’s) new gTLD program. The new gTLDs offer more registration options to the public than existing “traditional” gTLDs such as .com, .net, .org, .biz and .info. But with hundreds of new gTLDs comes an increase in risk for trademark owners. For gaming enterprises, the highest risk posed by the new gTLDs is the new gTLD .casino. Third party registration of your mark or brand as a .casino domain name could cause immense damage to your brand and company. Imagine third party operation of the domain www.YOURBRAND.casino for an offshore gaming site, a site that redirects consumers to your legitimate or illegitimate competitors, or a site that otherwise tarnishes your brand.
Mark owners can prevent this scenario by recording their marks with the TMCH and participating in the .casino sunrise and/or landrush domain registration periods. Although there are options for enforcement “after the fact” of a third party registration for your brand, these may face difficult proof problems (especially as to the necessary showing of “bad faith”) and can be expensive.
The Trademark Clearinghouse (TMCH)
Generally, only trademarks registered with a national trademark office, such as the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), are eligible for registration with the TMCH. Recordation with the TMCH offers several benefits, but the critical benefit of TMCH recordation is eligibility to register the recorded mark as a domain name during the sunrise registration period for any new gTLD, including .casino. Trademark owners may not participate in the sunrise registration period for .casino without first recording their trademark(s) with the TMCH.
In our experience, it takes up to three weeks for the TMCH to complete the recordal process. Accordingly, for companies planning on participating in the .casino sunrise period, we recommend filing TMCH recordal(s) by no later than April 30. Please contact us to discuss the recordal of marks with the TMCH.
Mark owners who have recorded trademark(s) with the TMCH are eligible to participate in the sunrise registration period for .casino. We expect the sunrise registration fees for a .casino domain name to fall between $200 and $300. The sunrise period is open until May 23 but validation of your trademark registration and specimen of use may take two to three weeks. During the sunrise period, mark owners may only register a domain name consisting of the identical mark recorded with the TMCH. For example, the owner of the TMCH recorded mark MYMARK is eligible to register the domain www.mymark.casino during the sunrise period, but is not eligible to register the domain www.mymarkslots.casino absent a separate TMCH recordation for the mark MYMARK SLOTS. In the latter case, we would recommend that the owner of the HOUSE mark consider the landrush registration period if it believes there is a high risk associated with the domain www.mymarkslots.casino. Further, please note that USPTO Supplemental Register registrations are not eligible for recording in the TMCH.
Another advance registration period, known as the “landrush period” or “early access phase,” opens May 27. The landrush period is open to anyone willing to pay the fees associated with obtaining a landrush registration. Trademark registrations and TMCH recordation are not required for eligibility to participate in the landrush period.
Landrush registration fees depend on the date of registration. The registration fees start at $12,500 per domain on the first day of landrush, when demand for .casino domain names is presumably highest. The fees decrease to $4,500 on the second day, $1,500 on day three, $950 on day four, and $250.00 on days five through seven. These fees are in addition to the general registration fees for a .casino domain name.
The landrush period may be a good option for mark owners seeking to register domain strings that are not eligible for recordal with the TMCH. Such strings may consist of common law marks, or of a registered mark plus a generic term such as “slots.” The decision of whether and when to register domains during the landrush period is a business decision, weighing the potential risk of third party ownership of a given domain against the registration fees for a given day of the period.
Summary of .CASINO Deadlines
The .casino sunrise registration period is open now and closes May 23. TMCH recordals for marks intended for .casino sunrise registration should be filed by no later than April 30. The landrush period opens May 7 and closes June 2, with landrush fees decreasing daily over the period. .casino opens for general registration on June 3.
Please contact Anne Aikman-Scalese or Nate Edwards with any questions regarding the .casino gTLD, ICANN’s new gTLD program, or with general questions regarding Internet, trademark or copyright law.