Brand owners!  Have you heard about the .sucks domain names? Sunrise registrations for the TLD opened on 30 March and Instagram, Bank of America and Keven Spacey have already secured their .sucks.

Controversial domain extensions like .sucks are nothing new. However, the high fees to secure a .sucks are unprecedented. Canadian company Vox Pupuli, the TLD owner, charges nearly USD$2,500 to register during the sunrise period. This makes it a difficult decision, especially for brand owners who only want to register a .sucks domain name for defensive purposes. 

Commentators in the IP community have expressed their concern about the whopping costs, describing .sucks as a money-making scheme that facilitates registrations made in bad faith and, consequentially, trade mark infringement.  Complaints are being referred by ICANN to the US Federal Trade Commission and Canada’s Office of Consumer Affairs.

Despite the backlash, .sucks registrations have already hit the 5 million mark, far exceeding expectations. There are also legitimate reasons for making the string available.  For example, registrants of domains such as www.poverty.com could send an effective message to consumers by registering www.poverty.sucks. Not surprisingly, Vox Populi has been very vocal about these sorts of arguments, stating that .sucks “is designed to help consumers find their voices and allow companies to find the value in criticism.”  The company reminds worried parties that the sunrise period allows them to get in early and block others from registering certain domain names. This will, of course, come at a price.

So what should brand owners do?  Many will adopt the 'wait and see approach' and if a sucky problem arises take it to a domain name dispute resolution panel. Though, it is unclear how these complaints will be handled.  Some panels, especially in the United States, may uphold dodgy registrations because of human rights considerations, such as freedom of expression. Even if brand owners bite the bullet and register a domain, there are endless variations still available. For instance, if you register www.yourbrandname.sucks a third party could still register www.yourbrandnamereally.sucks.

Following expiration of the sunrise period on June 1st, .sucks domains will become available to the public at a price well below USD$2,500. However, companies looking to register domains incorporating their trade marked words will be precluded from the lower cost structure. Because of this, it may be beneficial for some brand owners to act now, and register their .sucks domains while the sunrise period remains open.