Save Your Business: Register Your .xxx Domain Name (Before a Pornographer Does)

.xxx registration

You might not have heard the news. This past March, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names (ICANN) approved the formation of the .xxx domain, a new top-level domain that will be available for registration, along with .com, .net, .org, .edu and others. That’s right: “adult entertainment” is so mainstream that it warrants its own top-level domain extension.

How .xxx Affects You

What does this mean for you, a businessperson and/or website owner? It means that there’s a whole new way for people to misappropriate your brand name, infringe upon your trademark or simply divert your traffic.

The good news is that the ICM Registry is giving trademark owners a chance to proactively protect their trademarks by establishing a “Sunrise B” period (the month of September 2011), during which anyone can apply to have their brands permanently blocked from appearing as available .xxx domains.  This defensive trademark registration is estimated to cost a one-time fee of $200-$300, according to AdAge.com.

But what if your brand doesn’t carry a registered trademark? You could buy the .xxx domain related to your existing domain, which costs about $100 per year from GoDaddy, but according to TheRegister.co.uk:

In the event that a porn site and a non-porn site both apply for the same domain name, the porn site will be given priority, although they will be given a warning that a trademark owner is also interested in the domain, and may find themselves on the receiving end of a complaint.

Be prepared to defend your trademark. If you don’t have an existing trademark, you might consider applying for one as soon as possible. If you’ve just started your business, you may want to simply rethink your business name to avoid future disputes. Whatever action you take, make sure you’ve got the proof to back up your brand.

The Coming .com-pocalypse

Ominously, BrandChannel.com proclaimed today that “a new era in Internet policy begins June 20th.” On June 20th, ICANN will open the application process for 400-2,000 new top-level domain name extensions, including .sport, .law, .mtv, .nyc, .arab and many other industry-, brand- and location-focused extensions.  The .xxx domain extension is anticipated to be the most popular new extension, as approximately 60 registrars have been approved to sell over 1,000 new .xxx domain names.

These new extensions are meant to counteract phishers, scammers and cybersquatters from thwarting actual brand names and diverting Internet users from finding relevant and authentic information. Consequently, .com is expected to not have as much importance or sway as it has had previously, and .com domains that seem to be inactive will be replaced with domains that display actual content and relevant information.

I can see this change being both useful and annoying for brand managers, business owners and website developers everywhere.  Perhaps very soon .com will be going the way of floppy disks and VHS, and high schoolers will be debating whether we meant .computer or .commerce.  But only time—and cyberspace—will tell.

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3 of 4 Comments see all

  1. Leo

    I hope that most companies will read this article or one similar, so they at least know that they should pay the fee upfront to block companies from filing a .xxx on their domain name and prevent the need for future litigation. My fear is that a lot of companies won’t even know that this is a potential issue. A lot of people assume that if they have a trademark, other people can’t abuse it. The unfortunate reality is that a trademark is only a strong as your ability to defend it. So if, for whatever reason, they don’t get the the .xxx protection up front, those companies will be faced with the decision to simply let their trademark erode and live with the existence of that site, or file a suit. Tough spot to be for small businesses.

  2. Jen

    “Under these regulations, would it be legal for a porn company to put up a site on Disney.xxx, if Disney hadn’t filed this protection? What about small companies that might have a serious brand problem should the .xxx version exist on their name?”

    That’s a good question, Leo. I think that Disney could probably get away with not paying the fee because they have tons of money to spend on defending their trademark. But for the smaller businesses, it might be a different case. If you’re in a completely different industry form a porn company, then they’re technically not a competitor and might not be considered as infringing on your name. Of course, I’m no lawyer, so it’s best to ask one. It’s true that a small company with a registered trademark could file suit against the porn company, but would it make sense for them to engage in a suit that could cost them thousands of dollars when they could just pay a minimal fee of $300 up front?

  3. Leo

    Personally, I can see a tremendous amount of litigation resulting from allowing porn companies to register .xxx domain names on already trademarked words in the cases where that company hasn’t paid the $300 fee to block the .xxx usage.

    Under these regulations, would it be legal for a porn company to put up a site on Disney.xxx, if Disney hadn’t filed this protection? What about small companies that might have a serious brand problem should the .xxx version exist on their name?

    Any company with a registered trademark that finds their name used with a .xxx extension as a porn site will likely send a threat letter and might file suit, if their demands aren’t met (or if they aren’t willing to pay whatever fee the porn company requires to cease operations).

4 Comments

  1. Koby

    I don’t think .coms will lose the importance they had. I can see inactive domains being replaced though, but actual .com domains with good content won’t suffer at all IMO.

  2. Leo

    Personally, I can see a tremendous amount of litigation resulting from allowing porn companies to register .xxx domain names on already trademarked words in the cases where that company hasn’t paid the $300 fee to block the .xxx usage.

    Under these regulations, would it be legal for a porn company to put up a site on Disney.xxx, if Disney hadn’t filed this protection? What about small companies that might have a serious brand problem should the .xxx version exist on their name?

    Any company with a registered trademark that finds their name used with a .xxx extension as a porn site will likely send a threat letter and might file suit, if their demands aren’t met (or if they aren’t willing to pay whatever fee the porn company requires to cease operations).

  3. Jen

    “Under these regulations, would it be legal for a porn company to put up a site on Disney.xxx, if Disney hadn’t filed this protection? What about small companies that might have a serious brand problem should the .xxx version exist on their name?”

    That’s a good question, Leo. I think that Disney could probably get away with not paying the fee because they have tons of money to spend on defending their trademark. But for the smaller businesses, it might be a different case. If you’re in a completely different industry form a porn company, then they’re technically not a competitor and might not be considered as infringing on your name. Of course, I’m no lawyer, so it’s best to ask one. It’s true that a small company with a registered trademark could file suit against the porn company, but would it make sense for them to engage in a suit that could cost them thousands of dollars when they could just pay a minimal fee of $300 up front?

  4. Leo

    I hope that most companies will read this article or one similar, so they at least know that they should pay the fee upfront to block companies from filing a .xxx on their domain name and prevent the need for future litigation. My fear is that a lot of companies won’t even know that this is a potential issue. A lot of people assume that if they have a trademark, other people can’t abuse it. The unfortunate reality is that a trademark is only a strong as your ability to defend it. So if, for whatever reason, they don’t get the the .xxx protection up front, those companies will be faced with the decision to simply let their trademark erode and live with the existence of that site, or file a suit. Tough spot to be for small businesses.