Prophylactic Steps to Avoid an .XXX Domain Hijacking

Top level domains (“TLD”), such as .com, .net and .org are about to have another bedfellow – the .xxx domain name extension.  These .xxx domains are intended to be utilized solely for hosting adult oriented websites.  But, this new TLD has a lot of entities worried about having their company name, or brands, being linked to .xxx domains secured by unrelated parties.  Recognizing this concern, the ICM Registry (the entity administering the TLD launch) has established a “sunrise” period that permits trademark owners and other business entities not in the adult entertainment industry, a period to claim certain .xxx names before they are open to the public.

Accordingly, owners of federal trademarks or service marks (not in the adult entertainment industry) may file an application (between September 7th and October 28th) to block an .xxx domain registration utilizing their mark.  If the application is approved, third parties trying to hijack the mark for .xxx purposes will be blocked.  This application period is referred to by ICM Registry as the “Sunrise B” period.

Unregistered trademark owners can also take steps to protect their marks, but can only do so during the “general availability” period (beginning December 6th) during which remaining .xxx domain names will be allocated to applicants on a first come, first served basis.  For those who are non-members of the “adult sponsored community,” domain registrars will accept applications for “non-resolving” .xxx domain names.  The intention is to protect intellectual property for personal domain names, company domain names, product domain names, etc. that didn’t have prior qualifying rights under ICM’s Sunrise A (aimed at members of the “adult sponsored community”) or Sunrise B (see above) period.    A “non-resolving” domain name is one that does not lead to a website or content.

Serious thought should be given to implementing defensive steps to assure that your trademark / brand does not get hijacked to an .xxx domain.  With the significant amount of resources expended to establish marks and brands, and the diminished good-will that could result from an association with an “adult sponsored community” site, taking prophylactic steps may be a prudent course of action.

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