When new Top-Level Domain (TLD) extensions are being launched, they typically begin with a 30 to 60 day period called Sunrise Period. During the Sunrise Period, Domain Names can not be registered by the general public, but only by those who hold a Trademark for a particular string or term. This allows Trademark holders to secure the domain name that matches their Trademark, and prevents it from being registered for fraudulent or malicious purposes.
In the Sunrise Period, the Registration of a Domain Name requires the applicant to provide some proof of their Trademark matching the name being registered. The exact proof required depends on the Registry that operates that TLD. The allocation of Domain Names also depends on the Registry itself - a Domain Name may be allotted on first come, first serve basis, or at the end of the Sunrise period. In the latter case, if there are multiple applicants with a valid Trademark for a particular string, the Domain Name may be put up for a private auction where both applicants would bid for the right to register the Domain Name.
Sunrise Registrations do not give the Registrant a perpetual claim over the Domain Name. The Registrant is expected to renew the Domain Name to maintain their Registration just like any other Domain Name failing which it would become available for anyone to register.
About the Trademark Clearinghouse (TMCH)
Starting October 2013, the Sunrise Period for any new Generic Top-Level Domain (gTLD) is expected to be served through a special Trademark Clearinghouse (TMCH) as mandated by ICANN, the governing body for Domain Names. A Trademark holder who wishes to register their Trademark name with any new gTLD is expected to first register their Trademark with the TMCH. When the TMCH reviews and validates their Trademark, the holder is allotted a Signed Mark Data (SMD) file that acknowledges their Trademark. This SMD file must be used by the holder as their proof while registering Domain Names in the Sunrise Period for any new gTLD that launches. The Trademark holder is not expected to supply any additional proof if they have a valid SMD file.
The TMCH-faciliated Sunrise process is mandatory for Generic Top-Level Domain extensions. Country-code TLD extensions (ccTLDs) are not expected to rely on the TMCH for validating Sunrise Registration requests.
About the Signed Mark Data (SMD) File
The SMD file contains the below details:
Marks: The Trademark(s) that the SMD file refers to
smdID: A unique identifier for the SMD file
U-labels: The strings that the Trademark holder can use to register domain names in the Sunrise Period
notBefore: The start of validity of the SMD file
notAfter: The end of validity of the SMD file
Encoded SMD file: The actual SMD file is encoded between -----BEGIN ENCODED SMD----- and -----END ENCODED SMD-----. You should not modify your SMD file, as this may render the SMD file invalid.
Sample SMD File
Marks: Tm1 & Tm2
U-labels: tm1-tm2, tm1tm2
notBefore: 2013-12-09 09:00
notAfter: 2017-11-24 09:00
-----BEGIN ENCODED SMD-----
-----END ENCODED SMD-----