We thought that headline might get your attention.
After years of lobbying for and against a sponsored top-level Internet domain (an sTLD) for the adult entertainment community, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) approved the new “dot triple-x” (.xxx) sTLD registry in March 2011, to be operated by ICM Registry LLC. sTLDs, as distinguished from generic top-level domains (gTLDs) like .com, .info, .net and other soon to be available unrestricted gTLD formatives, are domains based on themes proposed by private organizations that in turn establish and enforce rules restricting the eligibility of registrants who request use of their sTLDs.
A skilful allusion drawn from the motion picture rating system that identifies pornographic subject matter by the designation “x”, the .xxx sTLD is intended for a sponsored community comprised of providers of online adult entertainment (adult webmasters, performers, studios, store owners and the like), and their representatives and service providers (which include – in validation of the title of this piece – their lawyers, accountants and merchant account service providers, among others).
Proponents of the .xxx regime argue that a specific sTLD suffix will make it easier for parents and employers to block offending sexual material rather than having to rely upon more subjective and imprecise content based filtering techniques. ICM Registry LLC also advertises on its website that each .xxx site will be scanned for malware (thus offering some baseline virus protection to users), and that in 2012 it will offer a new (and one would have to assume secure) micropayment system to .xxx registrants. Opponents are of the view that while a step in the right direction, the .xxx sTLD is not a mandatory regime for providers of sexually explicit content. Inconsequence, they assert that plenty of pornographic content will remain readily available on the web through traditional gTLDs, rendering the .xxx sTLD more of a brand grab and dilution exercise for trade-marks and domain names not available to the adult entertainment community through the gTLD regime.
These concerns lead to the object of this article. In anticipation of a land rush to obtain .xxx domain names, ICM Registry LLC has compiled a Reserved ICM Registry of culturally significant names and the names of celebrities, entertainers and other newsworthy persons that will not be available for registration with the .xxx suffix. A quick search using the .xxx WHOIS search engine on the ICM Registry LLC website discloses that Madonna, Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie and Bono have nothing to fear – their names in association with the .xxx suffix have been reserved by the ICM Registry and thus do not appear to be available for use by others.
The rest of us who aspire to be rich, as well as the almost famous, will have to rely upon a second level of brand protection and anti-dilution; namely the sunrise provisions of the .xxx sTLD regime. During the sunrise window that runs from September 7th to October 28th, 2011, owners of trade-marks that were registered prior to September 1st, 2011 can opt-out of the .xxx sTLD regime by simply requesting that their registered trade-marks be blocked for use with the .xxx suffix. During that same sunrise window, owners of trade-marks and domain names who otherwise qualify for membership in the adult entertainment sponsored community may apply to grandfather their trade-marks and existing domain names within the .xxx sTLD regime so long as they have not been blocked from doing so by trade-mark owners who have applied to opt-out and block use of their trade-marks.
During the period November 8th to November 25th, 2011, other adult entertainment sponsored community members may stake a claim to domain names with the .xxx suffix that have not already been grandfathered or blocked during the sunrise window, by participating in a land rush and tie-breaking auction.
General registration of .xxx sTLDs commences on a go-forward basis on December 6th, 2011, subject to priority accorded to grandfathered and land rushed name claims that have not been blocked by trade-mark owners who have opted-out during the sunrise window. As well, owners of trade-marks that did not opt-out or did not qualify to opt-out during the sunrise period, or who evolve new brand names or trade-marks after September 1st, 2011, may still apply to register so-called "non-resolving" .xxx sTLD names from and after December 6th, 2011, so long as the non-resolving names have not already been registered for use by others in the adult entertainment sponsored community.
On the basis that a little bit of prevention can save a much more expensive pound of cure, brand owners are encourage to apply to block use of the .xxx sTLD suffix with their valuable registered trade-marks well before the October 28th, 2011 close of the sunrise window. While not without recourse thereafter, aggrieved trade-mark owners who do not apply to opt-out will have to challenge .xxx domain name use that reads upon their valuable brand names through traditional litigation, by availing themselves of ICANN’s Uniform Dispute Resolution Policy, or by reliance upon ICM Registry LLC’s Rapid Evaluation Service Policy available for trade-mark abuse or impersonation. It would also be prudent for brand owners to include the non-resolving registration of their evolving trade-mark brands under the .xxx sTLD regime as part of their general, ongoing brand protection program.