Consumer Confusion

Dotbud, a Hungarian Consortium, recently announced its plans to apply for a .BUD TLD meant to represent Budapest. .BUD would join the list of other European capitals that intend to apply for TLDs, including .LONDON, .BERLIN and .PARIS.

While a .BUD TLD could provide benefits for the city of Budapest, it is also worth considering what it could mean for Anheuser-Busch InBev, maker of Budweiser, Bud Light, etc. Widely referred to simply as “Bud,” Budweiser products hold a significant share of the U.S. beer market, and are widely recognized both in the U.S. and abroad. The existence of a .BUD could potentially create mass confusion among Budweiser fans – imagine if someone were to register a domain like beer.bud that made no mention of Budweiser.

On the other hand, I could also picture U.S. Budweiser fans registering .BUD domains to use for websites and email addresses that have nothing to do with Hungary. This would then warp .BUD away from its intended purpose as a geographic TLD for the city of Budapest.

This isn’t the first example of a proposed TLD creating confusion: last October, ICANN announced that it had entered into an agreement with the Universal Postal Union (UPU) wherein the UPU, a department of the United Nations, would operate the .POST TLD. I’d be interested to know how brands like the Washington Post and Post Cereals feel about that move, and about not having the opportunity to bid on the extension for themselves.

There is also the issue of where ICANN will draw the line to determine string confusion once it begins receiving applications. Consider the possible TLD .BAYERN, for the German state of Bavaria. Would Bayer AG, the pharmaceutical company, be blocked from establishing .BAYER because it’s too close to .BAYERN? Where would that leave Bayer if its major competitors, like Novartis, Merck and Pfizer, get their own branded TLDs, .NOVARTIS, .MERCK and .PFIZER?

These examples don’t even take into account the confusion that could emerge across languages. For example, “Corona” is the name of both a California city and a brand of beer – but it is also the Spanish word for “crown.” Who gets to decide who gets .CORONA and how it is used? The likelihood of confusion with this and other potential new TLDs could be huge.

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