With ICANN’s publication of the latest draft of the Applicant Guidebook for new gTLDs (the April 2011 Discussion Draft) on Friday, conversation within the domain name space has turned to new gTLDs once again. Just last month, Japanese multinational Hitachi announced its plans to apply for a .HITACHI gTLD.
That got me thinking. Hitachi has a strong construction machinery business that produces various types of bright orange excavators. What other construction equipment manufacturers will choose to follow Hitachi’s lead and register their own branded gTLDs? Will we see a .CASE, a .DEERE or a .KOMATSU?
What we won’t see during the first, or any subsequent, round of applications will be .CAT for Caterpillar. Caterpillar, Inc. is known extensively as CAT – it even owns the domain name CAT.com and has trademark registrations for “CAT” dating back to the 1980s.
.CAT, however, was approved in 2005 as a sponsored TLD for the Catalan speaking community. Since then, only about 49,000 domains have been registered, according to its website.
So where does that leave CAT if its major competitors all end up with their own branded gTLDs? Certainly it could apply for .CATERPILLAR, but that extension is much more cumbersome and would undo decades of branding around the “CAT” name. I would be interested to know how CAT first reacted when it learned of the approval of the .CAT TLD, and what it thinks about its de facto exclusion from applying for its own branded gTLD.
Perhaps CAT will consider seeking some other action against ICANN. Then again, no domain ending in .CATERPILLAR can compare to its current domain, CAT.com. So perhaps it will continue to market that domain and save the cost of operating its own registry.
According to its latest timeline, ICANN predicts that the Board will consider and potentially approve the Guidebook at the end of June, meaning the first round of applications will likely not open for many months – perhaps not until late 2011, assuming things go smoothly for ICANN. One day, companies will face decisions like the one CAT faces. For the time being, no need to lose sleep; new gTLDs have not yet become a reality.