shutterstock_189798017Taylor Swift may be able to “Shake It Off” when it comes to bad publicity or criticism, but her public relations team is thinking ahead.

According to Entertainment Weekly, representatives for Swift registered the pop star’s name in .PORN and .ADULT, presumably to keep the domains free of unsavory content.

Corporate brands are also considering which new gTLDs warrant proactive domain name registration. And .SUCKS is currently top-of-mind for many brand owners.

A New gTLD Dedicated to Gripe Sites

So what makes .SUCKS unique?

It’s a new gTLD that is explicitly dedicated to gripe sites.

Also, unlike most registries, the registry behind .SUCKS — Vox Populi — has been very open about its pricing:

$2,499 is the suggested MSRP for Sunrise registrations, while “Premium” domain names will be individually priced.

$10 is the “Consumer Advocate Subsidized” rate at which individuals can register in .SUCKS, creating a template site for individuals to air their thoughts and grievances online.

This unique pricing suggests that Vox Populi knows two things: a) online brand protection is important to trademark holders – from corporations to small businesses and b) gripe sites are protected speech.

There is also a domain “block” being offered by Vox Populi for the rate of $199 per year – however, names that fall under “Premium” or “Sunrise Premium” are not eligible for this service. So, ultimately, most brands will be forced to choose between the $2,499 registration or the risk an individual registering their brand in .SUCKS.

Will Complaints Against .SUCKS Domains be Successful?

Some large brands, looking to the near future, are wondering if UDRP or URS complaints against .SUCKS domain names containing trademarks are likely to be successful.

As FairWinds’ own UDRP expert and attorney Steve Levy explained in last week’s UDRP webinar, “the answer is — it depends.” He went on to cite the 2014 <f*> case in which the use of the pejorative 4-letter word was cited by the Panel as a factor which reduces confusion between the domain and the trademark.

“However,” Levy continued, “you also have to look at the content of any resolving website. Does it actually contain typical free speech type of material such as criticism and other angry ranting?”

If the latter, then it could be protected as a fair use of the domain name.

Levy predicts that, while the .SUCKS TLD will impact enforcement results, the TLD will be only one factor in a decision as panels will still have to look at all the facts of a given case.

Coming to Terms with Gripe Sites in .SUCKS

Trademark holders won’t know until Monday, March 30th, whether their mark is on the “Premium” or “Sunrise Premium” (aka, most expensive) list of domains.

The sunrise period runs until May 29th, so brands will have a little more time to make a decision on whether or not to register in .SUCKS.

Between now and then, those responsible for online brand protection should discuss this gTLD and the possible registration fees with their internal stakeholders – from marketing to public relations to customer service – in order to make the best decision once the sunrise period begins.

Josh Bourne
Number of Gripe Sites to Grow? Online Brand Protection in the Age of .SUCKS

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