Your step-by-step guide to acquiring a gTLD

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Fielding a team
The next step is fielding your new gTLD team. Your team will consist of both internal and external players.

Internally, you will need to gather key stakeholders, including marketers, IT staff, and legal counsel. They will play various roles in conceiving of how to use the gTLD, applying for the gTLD, and then implementing the plans. Because acquiring a gTLD is also a significant monetary investment, some brands will also need to bring members of the C-suite to the table, most likely the CMO, but also potentially the CEO, depending on the company.

Even though you've assembled an all-star squad of colleagues within your company, you are also going to have to bring in some outside partners for this undertaking. The fact is that your company has no experience operating a gTLD registry. But luckily, there are qualified partners to assist with preparing your application, handling any objections or string contention issues that may arise after you've submitted the application, handling all the technical functions of running the gTLD registry, and maintaining your ongoing relationship with ICANN.

As a brand owner, it is most likely the case that you already have a corporate registrar partner, and that partner may offer certain gTLD services like application preparation. While it may seem like an easy choice to stick with the registrar you know, it will be worth your time to look into other alternatives. Many registrars claim that they can handle all your gTLD needs, but upon a closer look, you will realize that they use a one-size-fits-all methodology instead of tailoring their services to your company's specific needs.

Playing offense
Once you have completed all the preparatory work and gathered your key players, it's time to launch your offensive. This means submitting your well-planned and carefully prepared application between Jan. 12 and April 12, 2012. In addition to writing the application and sending it over to ICANN, you have to prepare to respond to any objections or string contention issues that may arise around the gTLD you applied for.

Of course, all of this is going to require hefty sums of money. Beyond the $185,000 application fee, you will also have to provide a "Continuing Operations Instrument" by demonstrating that you have the equivalent of three years' worth of registry operating costs at your disposal -- roughly $150,000 to $350,000. That means that you have to either deposit that amount of cash into escrow, or provide a letter of credit in that amount.

If any objections arise, you will have to pay to respond to those objections. Fortunately, if you prevail, the fees will be refunded. But in the event that you and another applicant end up in a "contention set" and eventually in an auction, the price to stay in the game could soar.

Playing defense
Beyond just responding to any objections that other parties file against your gTLD application, you will also have to prepare yourself to object to any other applications that could pose a threat to your brand. As part of the new gTLD policy, trademark owners can file what is called a "legal rights objection" with the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) if a gTLD that another party applies for infringes on your trademark.

You will also want to make sure to register your trademark in the Trademark Clearinghouse, one of the strongest trademark protection mechanisms brand owners can take advantage of to protect themselves against cybersquatting in second-level domains across new gTLDs.

According to predictions, more than 1,000 new gTLDs could go live within the next few years. In the same way that you protect your key brand terms across the existing gTLDs and country code domains, you will need to be sure to future-proof your brand by staking your claim in pertinent .brand, .category, and .aspirational term gTLDs to avoid brand dilution, customer confusion, or competitive disadvantage.