UNICEF estimates that there are nearly 2.4 billion children under 18 (unicef.org), i.e. around 1/3 of the world’s population. The games and toys market alone has been growing steadily for years, representing more than 100 billion dollars in 2021 (toyassociation.org). The fashion, book, education, and media markets are experiencing a similar trend. The .KIDS new gTLD is landing at the right time.
However, thinking only in terms market would definitely be too narrow. The DotKids Foundation registry aims to create and promote a digital universe adapted to the well-being of children. To this end, the registry has adopted guiding principles based on the 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child (ohchr.org). In the event of a transgression of these principles, users of .KIDS domain names will be subject to a report and take down process. Undoubtedly, certain situations will give rise to controversial discussions. In such cases, applying the precautionary principle could be prudent and judicious.
Admittedly, brands of children-oriented goods and services are relatively untargeted by cybersquatters, who continue to prefer the banking, finance, luxury, pharmaceutical, and social media sectors. To date, there were few out-of-court proceedings relating to domain names containing the words “kid”, “child,” or “baby” (respectively, 109, 58, and 64 proceedings: wipo.int, data collected on July 22, 2022). However, it would be wrong to consider this phenomenon as negligible. The brands concerned are those targeting games and toys (Lego, FisherPrice), books (Kididoc), electronics (Polaroid), traditional media (Discovery), online media (Facebook and Instagram), fashion (Munchkin, Prada, Fendi, Ralph Lauren, Reebok, Dr Martes, Gucci, Sonia Rykiel, Ecko, Burberry, Gap, Dior), the food industry (Danone), but also the health sector. Indeed, even a cancer research fund affecting children had to file a UDRP complaint. Some cybersquatters have no limits! Also, let’s not forget that Mr. John Zuccarini was sentenced in 2004 to imprisonment for linking domain names reproducing or imitating brands targeting children to pornographic sites! Furthermore, one should bear in mind the countless cases of cybersquatting and typosquatting, which, without referring to words such as “kid”, “child” or “baby”, reproduce or imitate trademarks (for example, Chicco: DIR2020-0009; Mother Care: D2017-0024).
.KIDS is, therefore, not a new gTLD like the others. Whether you are for or against the new gTLDs in general or the very existence of this one in particular, whether you work in a sector targeting children or not, .KIDS is one of the very first top-level domains dedicated to a population of vulnerable Internet users (one can also mention .TOYS). Children are connected. Every child identifying a .KIDS domain name will (naively but naturally) feel safe enough to click on it or type it into the bar of a search browser. As a result, brand owners, undoubtedly concerned about the well-being of children and the image of their brand (in that order), are facing a moral duty concerning the use of a .KIDS domain associated with their brand.
Consequently, brand owners are urged to file their trademark with the Trademark ClearingHouse (TMCH) and register the corresponding domain name as early as the sunrise period starts. One must fight against .KIDS cybersquatting. To these days, the sunrise period remains the most immediate way to confine the consequences of cybersquatting. Undoubtedly, in the current state of the law, the legal tools are lacking to fight more effectively against typosquatting. Nevertheless, software tools can detect the registration and misuse of trademark-like domain names. Using such tools will be effective in detecting domain names that harm the well-being of children and, more incidentally but not insignificantly, trademark rights and the image of the trademark.
.KIDS domains can be registered during the sunrise period from August 11, 2022, to September 14, 2022, with the Trademark ClearingHouse (TMCH). On November 29, 2022, .KIDS domains will be made available to the public.