The National Restaurant Association joined more than 80 other business associations and companies in requesting U.S. Department of Commerce Secretary John Bryson to act immediately to urge the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) to postpone a costly and risky new generic top-level domain (gTLD) expansion program that threatens to throw the domain-name market into widespread confusion starting in January.

The Association and other members of the Coalition for Responsible Internet Domain Oversight, led by the Association of National Advertisers, represent millions of American businesses. ICANN is the nonprofit organization under contract with the Commerce Department to manage the domain-name process.

"The ICANN plan effectively forces brand owners to buy their own brand names from ICANN,” says Scott DeFife, executive vice president of policy and government affairs for the National Restaurant Association. “The program will increase exposure to Internet-marketing abuse, cost restaurant companies millions of dollars to protect brand identity, and potentially confuse consumers. We urge the Commerce Department to work with ICANN to ensure businesses will not be forced to spend resources that could otherwise be directed to help build the economy and create jobs.”

ICANN approved the new domain-name application process in June in spite of heated opposition by U.S. businesses that argued ICANN had not done the research to justify the need for the new process and had failed to get the required stakeholder consensus for its recommendations.

Top-level domains are the words that appear to the right of the dot in Internet addresses, such as .com, .org and .net. Twenty-two generic top-level domains are currently approved for use in the United States.

If ICANN proceeds as planned, the organization will start accepting applications Jan. 12, 2012, for hundreds and ultimately thousands of new gTLDs. Applicants could claim virtually any word, including generic terms such as “restaurant” or “bank,” a geographic location, or a specific brand name.

The NRA and its allies in CRIDO argue that the program will divert hundreds of thousands of dollars in company budgets to domain-name registration as businesses of all sizes scramble to apply for TLDs to protect their brands and trademarks from misuse.

Costs include a $185,000 application fee for each new top-level domain. Restaurants and other companies also likely would be forced to register numerous second-level domains (i.e., the words to the left of the dot) within the new top-level domains. Costs would be driven even higher by legal, marketing and other company costs associated with the application.

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