Recently my colleague Keith Barritt reported on the impending roll-out of the .suck top level domain, at eye-popping prices of $2499 and up for trademark owners to secure their marks during the sunrise period.
The .sucks pricing scheme has been widely criticized in the trademark community, with brand owners and attorneys pointing not just to the high sunrise fees, but also to the tiered general availability price structure, which will maintain the $2499+ price tag for “premium” domains – names which coincidentally correspond to trademarks registered in the ICANN Trademark Clearinghouse (TMCH).
Now the Intellectual Property Constituency (IPC) at ICANN have weighed in. On March 27th, the IPC submitted a letter to ICANN formally requesting a halt to the roll-out of .sucks. IPC’s letter cites the predatory pricing structure for sunrise registrations and “premium names”, and the so-called “consumer advocate subsidized” option which forces registrants to subsidize the hosting of gripe web sites. The IPC contends that the scheme may be in violation of ICANN’s own rules, various rights-protection laws around the world, as well as ICANN’s registration agreement.
In “All the President’s Men”, Deep Throat famously told Woodward and Bernstein to “Follow the money.” And therein lies the blockbuster at the end IPC’s letter. IPC calls attention to a previously unnoticed and “peculiar” provision in the .sucks registry agreement which provides for a one-time “registry access fee” of $100,000 paid to ICANN, plus additional “registry administration fees” of $1.00 for each of the first 900,000 domains registered in .sucks. This payout to ICANN of up to $1 million is unique to the .sucks agreement. The IPC letter states: “Thus, if Vox Populi’s scheme succeeds, ICANN will receive $1 million more from .SUCKS than from any other registry with comparable success. The IPC is at a loss to understand why ICANN stands to receive this unique payout from .SUCKS.”