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Rewired: The .XXX Factor

by Samantha Melamed
More likely than not, you’ve invested a great deal in your company’s online presence: web development, social media, search engine optimization and online advertising. So, the last thing you’d want would be for an adult entertainment com­pany to register the URL?—with an entirely different demographic in mind.

Yet that’s exactly what could happen this fall, after the so-called sunrise period for the new .xxx adult content domain registry ends on Oct. 28. As a result, says Troy Larson (pictured), a local Ballard Spahr attorney specializing in intellectual property, companies may want to be proactive in protecting their online brands.

“You can be sure that, unlike other circumstances, if someone does hijack your brand it will be associated with some content that you’re probably not interested in having your brand associated with,” Larson notes. “Yet there are some things you can do.”

He describes the sunrise period as “the first line of defense,” since companies with registered trademarks have the opportunity to pre-block their trademarks from being registered as .xxx domains. It costs $225 to preemptively block a URL on the .xxx domain for 10 years.

For those who don’t have registered trademarks, who fail to participate in the sunrise period or who discover that slight variations on their trademarks have been registered, the second line of defense is dispute resolution, via .xxx provider ICM Registry, via the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) or in federal court, Larson notes.

While it’s uncertain as yet what the impact of the .xxx introduction will be, the topic speaks to a broader range of concerns companies now face when doing business online.

“The whole domain name system, since it came out in the late ’90s, has sparked some controversy: ‘How many domain name end­ings should I be worried about? How many variations on the spelling of my brand should I be worried about? What about things like using negative words in the domain name, like the quasi-famous’” Larson says. “A lot of companies are establishing policies about how far they’re going to go in defensively registering domain names.”

This problem will only get stickier next year, when new ICANN conventions will allow a slew of alternative domains into the online marketplace.

For example, says Larson, consider the domain ending “.apple”.

“Is it going to be the apple growing community in general or the Apple Computer Co. that gets to own that?” he says. “That creates a whole other issue that companies are going to have to face in terms of deciding how to protect their brand in the online world.”

Published (and copyrighted) in South Jersey Biz, Volume 1, Issue 9 (September, 2011).
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