Businesses operating within the insurance industry will soon be able to use <[name].insurance> domain names to direct customers to their online content.  The application process for these industry-specific names begins on 3 May 2016 and combines substantive eligibility and administrative requirements.

The <.insurance> top-level domain is part of the continuing evolution of online naming conventions that began in 2013 and is aimed at giving insurance-related businesses a secure environment for consumers and businesses to find trust-worthy information.  It is reserved for businesses able to demonstrate a bona fide connection to the insurance industry, such as regulated entities and their representative associations, some service providers and government regulators.

Names can be applied for in four stages and will be allocated on a first-come-first-served basis:

  1. Qualified Launch Program for Founders: During the period May 3 to May 8, certain entities which endorsed the <.insurance> domain from the outset (known as “Founders”) can apply for domain names that exactly match trademarks they have deposited in the Trademark Clearinghouse (a.k.a. the “TMCH”).
  2. Sunrise: During the period May 9 to June 8, all other businesses can apply for domain names that exactly match trademarks they have deposited in the TMCH.
  3. Founders’ period: during the period 9 June to 14 June, Founders can apply for domain names which “correspond to”, rather than match exactly, trademarks they have deposited in the TMCH.
  4. General availability: from 15 June onward, all eligible businesses can apply for a domain name which “corresponds to” trademarks they have deposited in the TMCH.

A number of measures are in place to enhance consumer trust and security in this space, such as a prohibition on proxy registrations, security specifications around the use of email and the requirement to provide a contact phone number that is listed under the business owner’s name in a public database.

Some businesses will have difficulty in initially registering their business name. In some cases this will simply be due to the stringent rules around eligibility, for example because the business’s trademarks are held by an IP holding company rather than the entity licensed to provide insurance services.  In other cases, a business name may not be registrable because a third party has already registered it, or because it has been withheld from the pool as a registry-designated “Reserved Name”.  Although these difficulties may be frustrating, they do not mean the desired domain name cannot be obtained:  a number of solutions may be available, depending on the circumstances.

Please speak with the author or your usual Cooley contact if you require assistance navigating or avoiding any of these issues, or if you would like to discuss new top-level domains or the TMCH.

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