From June 1, ‘.sucks’ domain names will be openly available for purchase by the general public. In the meantime, we are currently in the sunrise period which allows trade mark holders to register domain names in advance before they are made available to the public. 

The mass expansion of the Internet has caused a shortage in web addresses, so more “domain name strings” like ‘.sucks’ are being created. Over the coming years, we could see the creation of over 1,000 new strings by ICANN, an international body responsible for the coordination of domain name registers. Vox Populi is a Canadian entity that won the rights to the ‘.sucks’ string. 

The ‘.sucks’ pricing scheme is a little bit complex and very expensive. To put things in perspective, domain name registration will typically only cost about $25 per year. Vox Populi has created 4 separate pricing schemes, but note that these can vary depending on who you register with:  

  • “Premium Names” is a list of those names which might be inherently valuable, such as “life.sucks” or “divorce.sucks”. It appears that registration of a Premium Name can cost anything upwards of $249, plus an annual renewal fee of $249;
  • “Sunrise Premium” is a list of domains consisting of trade marks which will set trade mark rights holders back $2,499 per year. Despite the name, it would appear that brand owners will still need to fork out USD $2,499 to nab their registration even after the sunrise period ends;
  • “Standard Registrations” are any names not on the Premium Names or Sunrise Premium lists, and will cost around $249 per year; and
  • “Consumer Advocate Subsidies” are available from September 2015 for those who wish to purchase a ‘.sucks’ address to host a forum discussion website. These can be purchased for under $10 by anyone not affiliated with the corporation that the domain is referencing.

The predatory nature of the ‘.sucks’ pricing scheme does raise some issues about the regulation of these new domain name registries, but there is little to suggest the scheme is not acting within current rules. 

Companies and individuals with the finances have the option of defensively registering a ‘.sucks’ address in order to prevent someone else obtaining it; the likes of Google, Apple, Microsoft, and even Kevin Spacey and Taylor Swift have already purchased ‘.sucks’ names in an effort to protect their reputations. 

However, given the wide availability of new domain names, and the considerable price tag for Sunrise Premium ‘.sucks’ domain names, defensive registering may not be the best way to go about protecting your brand. There are just too many variants that you cannot pre-emptively protect them all. For example: brand.sucks; yourbrand.sucks; your-brand.sucks; brandsucks.com; brand-sucks.com; brand.boo; brand.wtf; brandsucks.co.nz; brandsucks.nz; brandsucks.kiwi; the list goes on. Besides, if someone is really trying to negatively target your brand, there are lots of other, perhaps more effective ways they can do that.

Should you decide not to defensively register, there are other steps you can take to combat a ‘.sucks’ site that corresponds to your business, such as positive marketing strategies and strategic use of meta-tags or Google Ad-words. 

Why such a problematic string of domain names is even available does raise some interesting questions, but nevertheless, it appears to be here to stay and so businesses and their intellectual property advisors will need to consider the strategies available to minimize the potential impact.