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Vedder Thinking | Articles New Internet Domain Names for Banks: What You Need to Know Now


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The world of the Internet is in a state of change. In 2008, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the administrator of the Domain Name System, approved a new program that enables the creation of an unlimited number of new generic Top-Level Domains (gTLDs). In response, a coalition of banks, insurance companies and financial services associations partnered to establish fTLD Registry Services, LLC (fTLD) in order to apply for and operate the .BANK gTLD on behalf of the global banking community. On September 25, 2014, fTLD was granted the right to operate .BANK as a new gTLD.

The .BANK gTLDs will open up much-needed real estate on the Internet, providing new marketing, branding and cross-selling opportunities for the banking community. Eligible institutions will be able to obtain domain name registrations with a .BANK suffix instead of .COM. In addition, fTLD will implement enhanced control systems to mitigate cyber risks from malicious activities over the Internet. For example, registrants will be required to include charter verification by the registrant's regulator before they can register a domain name in the .BANK gTLD.

The registration system for the .BANK gTLD became available mid-May 2015 for banks with registered trademarks with ICANN's Trademark Clearing House (TMCH). The figure below illustrates the timeline for obtaining .BANK gTLDs.

Domains will be awarded on a first-come, first-served basis in all registration periods. The Qualified Launch Program for Founders period was available for founding members of fTLD that have registered their trademarks in ICANN's TMCH. The Sunrise period will be available for eligible members of the global banking community that have registered their trademark with ICANN's TMCH. During the 30-day Sunrise period, banks that meet fTLD's eligibility requirements will have an advance opportunity, before names are available to other eligible members of the banking community, to register domain names that are exact matches to their registered trademarks. The Founders period will be available to the founding members of fTLD that have yet to register their domains. Eligible members of the global banking community that do not meet the Sunrise or Founders requirements can then register their trademarks, on an ongoing basis, during the General Availability period starting June 24, 2015.

The .BANK gTLD provides new opportunities for marketing, branding and other promotional activities. However, once the Sunrise and Founders periods expire, domain names will be granted on a first-come, first-served basis. Institutions, therefore, should review their current marketing plan to determine if and when registration of the newly available .BANK domain names is appropriate.

For more information about the new Internet domain names for banks, contact a member of our Financial Institutions group or your Vedder Price attorney.


Daniel C. McKay, II