In our earlier legal update titled "Protecting Your Brand Over the Internet - An Update About Domain Name Protection and Related Developments" dated 21 September 2011, we advised that the application period for the new generic top-level domain names ("new gTLDs") will close by 12 April 2012. It should be noted that there is an earlier date which potential applicants should bear in mind - 29 March 2012, by which each new gTLD applicant must register a user account with the ICANN's TLD Application System ("TAS") in order to apply for a new gTLD. Such user account registration period will be closing at 23:59 UTC on 29 March 2012 with no time extension.
What an applicant should do by the 29 March 2012 deadline is to create a TAS account by registering its user details online with ICANN and request a new gTLD application. ICANN will then perform a legal compliance check of the application request (expected to complete within 1-2 working days) and the applicant has to pay a registration fee of US$5,000 to ICANN. ICANN will acknowledge receipt of the registration fee payment and release the TAS account login credentials to the applicant, following which the applicant will then be allowed to complete and submit its new gTLD application and pay the remaining US$180,000 evaluation fee.
The entire new gTLD application process is complex and may take a few working days to complete. The reason for ICANN imposing an earlier deadline for user account registration is to ensure that each applicant has already registered its TAS account two weeks ahead and has sufficient time to complete and submit its application before the closing on 12 April 2012.
If an applicant intends to submit more than one new gTLD application under a TAS user account, it should do the TAS user registration at least a few working days before the 29 March 2012 deadline because it can only request multiple applications as an existing TAS user (i.e. who has already received the TAS account login credentials). Further, ICANN generally encourages applicants to pay the US$5,000 registration fee before the 29 March 2012 deadline to avoid delay.
Hence, if you are interested in applying for a new gTLD, you must firm up your mind within the next few days.