The much-anticipated <.bank> generic Top Level Domain (“gTLD”) may be available to verified members of the banking community as early as June 2015. <.bank> is being touted by the operator, fTLD Registry, LLC. (“fTLD”), as a protected, trusted space on the Internet for the banking community and its customers with enhanced security controls that exceed most existing and new domains. While the addition of this new domain opens up real estate on the Internet and provides new marketing and branding opportunities, banks must be ready for the race to register your <.bank> domain name.

Eligibility Requirements Limit Registration to the Banking Community

Pursuant to fTLD guidelines, the following for-profit and not-for-profit businesses or organizations are initially eligible to register <.bank> domain names:

  1. State, regional and provincial banks that are chartered and supervised by a government regulatory authority
    Savings associations that are charted and supervised by a government regulatory authority
  2. National banks that are chartered and supervised by a government regulatory authority
  3. Associations whose members are primarily comprised of entities identified above in 1, 2 or 3
  4. Groups of associations whose members are primarily comprised of associations identified above in 4
  5. Service providers that are principally owned by or predominantly supporting regulated entities identified above in 1, 2 or 3 (if approved by the Registry Operator Board)
  6. Government regulators of chartered and supervised banks, savings associations, or
    organizations whose members are primarily comprised of government regulators (if approved by the Registry Operator Board)

Registration Opportunities Initially Tied To Existing Trademark Rights

For those entities meeting eligibility requirements above, fTLD has established the following timeline for filing to register <.bank> domains:

Sunrise Period: Estimated May 18 – June 16, 2015
Founders: Estimated June 17 – June 23, 2015
General Availability: Estimated June 24, 2015 – Ongoing

During the Sunrise Period, only federally registered trademark holders who have subsequently recorded their trademark with ICANN’s Trademark Clearinghouse (an information repository used to authenticate and validate trademark registrations) and meet fTLD’s eligibility requirements may secure a <.bank> domain matching their federally registered trademark. Immediately following the Sunrise Period, the founding members of fTLD have five days to apply to register <.bank> domains after which the registration process then opens to the entire banking community.

All domains are awarded on a first-come, first-served basis during all registration periods. Since the <.bank> gTLD will be available internationally, it’s likely your desired <.bank> domain is also desired by another financial institution. Consequently, the first in line will obtain the domain.

Registration Comes with Enhanced Security Requirements

Notably, the enhanced security controls of the <.bank> domain require that each applicant comply with a series of controls not currently required by the operators of any other commercial domain, including:

  • Mandatory Verification of Charter/Licensure for Regulated Entities
  • Domain Name System Security Extensions (DNSSEC) at all domain levels
  • Email Authentication
  • Multi-Factor Authentication (we assume in line with the most current guidelines issued by federal financial regulators and the Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council (“FFIEC”))
  • NIST Level 3 Encryption (or greater)
  • Abuse Monitoring
  • Escalated Compliance and Enforcement
  • Prohibition of Proxy/Privacy/Anonymous Registration Services

The cost of a <.bank> domain name registration has not been determined. However, with the heightened security features associated with <.bank>, be assured that the cost will be substantially higher than the cost to register other gTLDs.

What Are Your Next Steps If You Want To Register a .bank Domain

If you meet eligibility requirements and hold a federally registered mark, you must record your mark with ICANN’s Trademark Clearinghouse in order to take advantage of the Sunrise Period. Further, all potential <.bank> applicants should confirm they meet the enhanced security controls. It’s critical you use every available advantage to submit your application as soon as possible since identical <.bank> domain requests will be determined according to time of filing.

Cox Smith Banking and Financial Services group is already working with our Intellectual Property team to advise banks on their plan of action for the <.bank> domain name registration opening. Please contact attorneys in our Banking and Financial Services Section with any questions or requests for assistance with these issues.

By Pamela B. Huff of Cox Smith