Internet Companies Go for Top-Level Domains Like '.Law'

Source: Thursday, June 14th, 2012
http://www.law.com/jsp/lawtechnologynews/PubArticleLTN.jsp?id=1202559357661

Law.com

Eight companies, but just one in the legal field, are competing to buy new web domains such as ".law," ".lawyer," and ".legal," officials at the internet's domain registration body said Wednesday.

Until now, website URLs had to end with traditional suffixes such as .com, .edu, and .org. ICANN -- the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers -- last year expanded its system to allow for custom suffixes known as top-level domains. Applicants could suggest any name they wanted for a fee of $185,000, with the logic being that new domain owners would sublet their virtual land for profit. Applicants could also be trademark owners, such as .apple or .mcdonalds, most of which were filed without competition.

Applying for these suffixes is different than applying for regular domain names. In addition to the expensive fee, applicants must explain their intentions for the domain and their ability to accomplish those intentions. Vetting the applications could take up to a year, and there will probably be auctions to determine ownership at some point, ICANN documents explain.

Six companies applied for the .law domain. Five are registrars or similarly plan to sublet: Donuts, Dotmaker, Nu Dotco, Silver Registry, and Top Level Domain Holdings. Some, such as Donuts, recently opened and established many subsidiaries solely for the purpose of acquiring new top-level domains.

The sixth applicant for .law is Merchant Law Group, a 40-attorney firm with 12 offices throughout Canada. "We see it as very valuable. I'm surprised frankly that other law firms didn't pursue this," said Evatt Merchant, the firm's managing partner, in Regina, Saskatchewan.

"We certainly think it's an advantage being in a law firm, in terms of understanding marketing of .law and the way that the legal marketplace has functioned until now," Merchant said. "Now the issue is how do you properly develop a string like .law to serve the public well, without creating restraints?"

Merchant, in his firm's application to ICANN, wrote: ".LAW’s mission is to be the designated namespace for the world’s legal information and law-related markets. ... The .LAW TLD will be an Internet space, managed by MLG, to allow the distribution, marketing, and exchange of information and services relevant to law, by means of, but not limited to, websites, social networks, email, and other technologies. MLG will be adapting and broadening the scale and scope of these activities."

"MLG has a plan to develop, build, and sustain a unique value proposition for the .LAW TLD, and a marketing strategy to ensure that the maximum number of people and organizations are aware of how a .LAW domain can enhance their value proposition. A .LAW domain will provide a competitive advantage to registrants through a multitude of scenarios. MLG's delivery of the .LAW value proposition will provide an additional incentive for registrants acquiring .LAW domains to leverage their resources and capabilities and develop their unique place on the World Wide Web," the application states.

Merchant said he expects an auction sale to determine ownership of .law to end between $500,000 to $1 million. "We see this as an investment in the long term," he said. The firm plans to lease .law addresses through its own registrar, CentralNic, based in London, England.

Two companies -- Donuts (via numerous subsidiaries), and Top Level -- applied for .lawyer. Two others -- Primer Nivel and Blue Falls -- applied for .legal. Top Level also applied for .attorney and .abogado, the latter being Spanish for lawyer. No applicants requested .barrister or .solicitor.


No Big Rush To Nab '.Law' Domain Name

Source: Thursday, June 14th, 2012
http://www.ctlawtribune.com/PubArticleCT.jsp?id=1202561167399

Law Tribune

Eight companies, but just one in the legal field, are competing to buy new web domains such as ".law," ".lawyer," and ".legal," according to officials at the Internet's domain registration body.

Until now, website URLs had to end with traditional suffixes such as .com, .edu, and .org. ICANN -- the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers -- last year expanded its system to allow for custom suffixes known as top-level domains. Applicants could suggest any name they wanted for a fee of $185,000, with the logic being that new domain owners would sublet their virtual land for profit. Applicants could also be trademark owners, such as .apple or .mcdonalds, most of which were filed without competition.

Applying for these suffixes is different than applying for regular domain names. In addition to the expensive fee, applicants must explain their intentions for the domain and their ability to accomplish those intentions. Vetting the applications could take up to a year, and there will probably be auctions to determine ownership at some point, ICANN documents explain.

Six companies applied for the .law domain. Five of the companies aren't law firms; they are domain name registrars or other entities who similarly plan to sublet. The sixth applicant for .law is Merchant Law Group, a 40-attorney firm with 12 offices throughout Canada. "We see it as very valuable. I'm surprised frankly that other law firms didn't pursue this," said Evatt Merchant, the firm's managing partner, in Regina, Saskatchewan.

Long-Term Investment

"We certainly think it's an advantage being in a law firm, in terms of understanding marketing of .law and the way that the legal marketplace has functioned until now," Merchant said. "Now the issue is how do you properly develop a string like .law to serve the public well, without creating restraints?"

Merchant, in his firm's application to ICANN, wrote: ".LAW’s mission is to be the designated namespace for the world’s legal information and law-related markets. ... The .LAW TLD will be an Internet space, managed by MLG, to allow the distribution, marketing, and exchange of information and services relevant to law, by means of, but not limited to, websites, social networks, email, and other technologies. MLG will be adapting and broadening the scale and scope of these activities."

"MLG has a plan to develop, build, and sustain a unique value proposition for the .LAW TLD, and a marketing strategy to ensure that the maximum number of people and organizations are aware of how a .LAW domain can enhance their value proposition. A .LAW domain will provide a competitive advantage to registrants through a multitude of scenarios. MLG's delivery of the .LAW value proposition will provide an additional incentive for registrants acquiring .LAW domains to leverage their resources and capabilities and develop their unique place on the World Wide Web," the application states.

Merchant said he expects an auction sale to determine ownership of .law to end between $500,000 to $1 million. "We see this as an investment in the long term," he said. The firm plans to lease .law addresses through its own registrar, CentralNic, based in London, England.

Two companies -- Donuts and Top Level -- applied for .lawyer. Two others -- Primer Nivel and Blue Falls -- applied for .legal. Top Level also applied for .attorney and .abogado, the latter being Spanish for lawyer. No applicants requested .barrister or .solicitor.

Crowell & Moring attorney John Murino, who represents clients involved in the auction but not for the legal industry domains, says he didn't expect to see more law firms in the mix. "I'm not suprised that law firms haven't been the applicants because they're generally riskaverse," he said, in Washington, D.C. "But the other thing to keep in mind is you will not necessarily know who's behind the application in its entirety just based on who the applicant is."

ICANN stated that for all of the new top level domains, there were 1,930 applications received from 60 countries.