What do Columbus, the Americas and TLDs Have In Common? David Taylor Talks gTLDs

David Taylor imageHogan Lovells logoThis is the second of a series of articles on new TLDs as a result of interviews with leading industry players. In this second article we interview David Taylor, a partner in the Intellectual Property, Media and Technology Group at Hogan Lovells‘ Paris office.

What do Top Level Domains and the year Christopher Columbus discovered the Americas have in common? According to David Taylor, he predicts the number of applications for TLDs will be 1492, the year Columbus discovered the Americas.

It was on his first voyage that Columbus inadvertently discovered the Americas, landing in the Bahamas archipelago at a locale he named San Salvador. Columbus had been intending to head to Japan. Just a little way off! So we will see if Taylor’s predictions are any better on 1 May when ICANN intends to publish a full list of applicant for TLDs.

Taylor, a partner in the Intellectual Property, Media and Technology Group at Hogan Lovells‘ Paris office, heads up their specialist international domain name practice. He has been a regular attendee in recent years at ICANN meetings since new gTLDs have been mooted.

But back to those 1492 applications for TLDs. Taylor believes over half of the successful TLDs passing evaluation are likely to be brands, but the number of applications for “generics” could be surprising, although he feels the tussle to get to delegation might be more difficult.

And as business begins to understand a process they have been oblivious to or tried to ignore, the common reaction he sees now is “quiet panic”.

Taylor, like Adrian Kinderis, CEO of ARI Registry Services, in our first article of the series, also believes that awareness by business of the new TLDs is poor.

“I think the awareness is poor, and is only percolating through now to many. It depends upon the countries,” Taylor said. “I see a greater awareness in the UK than in many continental European countries, but that awareness is far lower than in the US for instance. There is a perceived problem with a ‘Final’ Applicant Guidebook being published the day before the opening of a short, 90 day window. Having said that this window is bigger than when it was only 45 days, so ICANN should be commended over that, but too many are waking up now and needing assistance, and there is just not the bandwidth available.”

In his dealings with brand owners, Taylor is seeing that many of the brands are considering applying for their TLD primarily for defensive reasons. But he is also seeing some interesting and potentially innovative ideas. However client confidentiality trumps all for now, and as Taylor says, “if I spill the beans then they are no longer innovative and I would get disbarred.” So no hints there and we cannot go up that route.

Taylor is seeing applications coming from a wide variety of industries.

“The Internet is key to so many businesses now that the opportunities can come from anywhere, and some of the applicants are quite unexpected.”

Of those who are applying, there are some brand owners that are very well prepared, but Taylor sees these as being in the minority. Many are trying to pull things together at the last minute, some are trying to do it on a shoestring and some have only just realised the effort required.

Since the opening of the window on 12 January Taylor says he is receiving serious requests for varying levels of assistance almost daily. On the day of our interview he had received four separate serious enquiries. It was an unusually high number and maybe it was an aberration. But then maybe he sees it as the way things are going. As Taylor says “last minute applications can be the problematic ones, they are looking for a rapid, standard application, and the new gTLD process is not something to cut corners on.”

Unlike many of the brand owners who are working out whether they should apply, or are belatedly organising an application, Taylor says he is glad Hogan Lovells have prepared for this over the last three years and have a dedicated team in place. It has meant that we have been able to assist a number of clients in a comprehensive, thought through manner, which is clearly preferable. But the last minute demand remains an issue, as does saying no to new clients, something lawyers rarely do. But even that team is going to be very stretched… with undoubtedly a few late nights!

Once TLDs are operational, Taylor believes internationalised domain names, community applications and city applications will be great TLDs for the future. But regarding brands this remains an intrigue.

“No one knows for sure what will happen regarding the brands and no one can be certain on how much real take up there will be in the short term. It will depend upon critical mass being attained,” Taylor believes, “but many of the early applicants are likely to obtain a considerable competitive advantage in this changing internet landscape.”

Our first interview with Adrian Kinderis, CEO of ARI Registry Services is available here.

David Taylor is a partner in the Intellectual Property, Media and Technology Group at Hogan Lovells‘ Paris office, heading up a specialist international domain name practice. He has also been long involved, in internet terms anyway, in domain name issues and has been attending ICANN meetings since 2000. He is a member of the Intellectual Property Constituency, was a member of the Implementation Recommendation Team set up by ICANN in March 2009 to propose and develop solutions to the issue of trademark protection in connection with the introduction of new gTLDs and currently is the IP representative for Europe on the ICANN GNSO Council. He is also a special advisor to the INTA Internet Committee.