There’s a new Internet domain coming out this fall as a way to identify adult entertainment websites. The nonprofit Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) regulates website domains. Last year they announced a move to create the .xxx domain as an alternative to the more common .com or .org domains. In theory, this will be a way for businesses and consumers to clearly identify adult content.
“The creation of .xxx will create a clearly signposted place where adult entertainment can be accessed and allow surfers to have a clear idea of the nature of the site before they click, rather than after,” according to a statement posted on the ICM Registry website, which is the organization responsible for .xxx domain registrations.
Regardless of the intent of the new .xxx domain, there is still the potential for brand names to be hijacked during the initial bidding for URLs. Each time a new top-level domain (such as .tv, .eu or .xxx) is introduced, new Internet “real estate” is created. Depending on the equity of your brand, that real estate can be extremely valuable. For example, imagine someone leveraging a brand name like “Nike” to drive traffic to “Nike.xxx.”
As marketers, we do have options to stop cybersquatters who may try to prompt a bidding war or otherwise cause damage to brand names. We’ve put together the following tips to help you mitigate potential risks:
- Trademark holders – If your brand is trademarked, there is a “sunrise” period during which you can block your brand from becoming a .xxx domain. Beginning Sept. 7, 2011, you can apply to the ICM Registry to be designated a “reserved – trademark.” Once accepted, your domain name will be removed from the pool of eligible domains. The sunrise period expires on Oct. 27, after which time there will be a “land rush” period from Nov. 8 – 25 during which the adult entertainment industry will be able to apply for .xxx domains.
- Non-trademark holders – if you have a domain name that is not a registered trademark (i.e. tires.com) you have to wait until the “general availability” period begins on Dec. 6, 2011. At that point .xxx domains will be registered on a first-come, first-served basis. You will then be able to register your name as a non-resolving .xxx domain. What that means is that you own that .xxx domain and thereby prevent anyone else from using it.
We’re recommending that all companies take proactive measures to prevent cybersquatting or potential misalignment of their brand with an adult entertainment website. In addition to brand names, you should also consider taking steps to protect your organization’s product names and the names of key executives or spokespersons. Opting out now will help protect against reputation management issues or potential legal battles to defend your trademarks.
Christine Pierpoint is IMRE’s Vice President of Emerging Media. She can be reached at 410.821.8220.