That Sucks For You. But, it doesn’t have to if you’re aware of this.
The Internet Corporation of Names and Numbers (“ICANN”) is the international company that oversees what are called generic top-level domains (“TLD”). These are .com, .net, .org and the others we’re all familiar with and likely use for our businesses and brands.
Recently, ICANN approved and delegated about 550 new TLDs. One of them is “.sucks” (no kidding). “.sucks” sounds pretty funny and harmless, but it’s not. Imagine if someone with an agenda registered “(your brand or company).sucks” and set up a presence on the web to make it easy to have people post comments and content that slams your products or services.
The company that created and operates “.sucks”, Vox Populi Registry Ltd., claims its purpose is for “consumer-led advocacy, freedom of speech” and to “foster debate and share opinions” so as to become a “focal point for “customer service”. They also claim that over 5 million registrants have registered “.sucks” domain strings already for their brands and names, including Apple, Hershey’s, Citigroup and Kevin Spacey (wonder what he’s worried about).
Many people in the legal and intellectual property communities, including me, think “.sucks” is unnecessary and potentially very harmful and that Vox Populi’s pricing structure, especially for certain very well-known marks ($2,500 per year) is extortion. While “.sucks” may have utility to send positive marketing messages (imagine “litter.sucks” or “bullying.sucks”), there are already plenty of places online, like Yelp and Ripoff Report, where people can exercise their First Amendment rights and express their opinions, negative or otherwise, about products and services.
There’s a movement underway to have “.sucks” removed as a TLD. It may or may not happen. Thankfully, it can be pretty easy and cost-effective to protect yourself from “.sucks”, if it concerns you. But, you should move fast. Here’s what I think are the best and most cost-effective steps to take:
If your brand or name is registered for a trademark, you need to register it with the Trademark Clearinghouse (“TMCH”). This should be done for all registered marks you have. You can register at http://www.trademark-clearinghouse.com, at a nominal cost. If it’s not a registered trademark, you can’t register it with the TMCH until it is. We can assist you with both of these. A TMCH registration can warn both domain name registrants and trademark holders of possible infringements. A potential domain name registrant gets a warning notice when that domain name matches a trademark in the TMCH. If, after receiving the notice, the domain name registrant continues to register the domain name, the trademark holder with a matching mark receives notification of it, so they can take appropriate action.
You can get a “blocking “registration for you “.sucks” domain chains at https://www.registry.sucks/products. It’s basically a defensive move that allows mark/brand owners to reserve a domain name, preventing others from registering that domain. It costs US$199 per registration per year. Registration with the TMCH isn’t required. It can be renewed annually or for up to 10 years at a time. It can later be converted to a regular registration.
You can register your name or brand “.sucks” domain chains online, also at https://www.registry.sucks. It costs US$249 per registration per year for non-famous brands and names. (It’s not cheap, but what’s your brand or reputation worth?) But, it’s on a first-come, first serve basis and anyone can register.
Consider subscribing to a trademark and domain name watch service. It assures trademark holders are alerted of any domain names registrations of their brand or name under any TLD and of any attempted trademark registrations similar or identical to their brand, so they can take appropriate action.
So, take a proactive approach to protecting your valuable brands, name and professional and personal reputations.
Just sayin’ . . . TM
© 2016 Paul I. Menes