When people talk about how new gTLDs will bring about a world of “.ANYTHING,” it can be easy to overlook the fact that there are certain restrictions on what strings will be allowed to become gTLDs. For example, numbers are not permitted in a new gTLD. Neither are country names. And new gTLDs must be at least three characters long, lest they be confused with existing country-code top-level domains (ccTLDs). General Motors, for example, cannot apply for .GM, as it is already the ccTLD for The Gambia.

But in truth, certain three-character strings will also be prohibited, because they too conflict with certain country codes. In the New gTLD Applicant Guidebook, Module 2, Section, ICANN discusses the “treatment of country or territory names.” Specifically, it says, “Applications for strings that are country or territory names will not be approved,” and goes on to list what qualifies as a country or territory name. That list includes the International Organization for Standardization’s ISO 3166-1 alpha-3 codes. There are over 250, so we encourage readers to click on the link to view the full list.

It turns out, this stipulation will prevent certain brand owners from applying for their .BRAND gTLDs. USA Networks, obviously, will not be allowed to apply for .USA. Neither MAC Cosmetics or Apple, nor electronics manufacturer RCA, will be allowed to apply for .MAC or .RCA. “MAC” is the ISO 3166-1 alpha-3 code for Macao, and “RCA” is the indeterminately reserved code for the Central African Republic. Similarly, .AIA is off-limits for AIA Insurance because it is the code for Anguilla.

Certain generic three-character words will also be prohibited: we won’t see Victoria’s Secret going after .BRA, as it’s the code for Brazil. Nor will we see Smucker’s pursuing .JAM or Diageo going after .GIN for its Tanqueray brand; those strings correspond to Jamaica and Guinea, respectively.

So what’s a brand to do if its name is a three-character ISO 3166-1 alpha-3 string and it still wants to apply for a new gTLD? We advise exploring the option of generic, category-term, or aspirational gTLDs. Alternatively, they can lookinto applying for longer versions of their brand names, such as .MACCOSMETICS and .RCAELECTRONICS.

Josh Bourne

Josh Bourne

Managing Partner at FairWinds Partners
A Managing Partner for the business, Josh draws on his experience with brands and blogs on business solutions for the domain name space.
Josh Bourne
The ABC’s of New gTLDs: Prohibited Three-Character Strings