• October 28th deadline to protect brands from cyber-squatters looms

Businesses have just 3 days left to pre-empt cybersquatters from maliciously registering their brands as .xxx domain names, warned Wedlake Bell LLP, the City law firm, at their Intellectual Property seminar this week.

According to Wedlake Bell, the best procedure for businesses who wish to block their brands from being registered without their consent as one of the new .xxx domain names is to have their details notified to ICM, the registry authorised to administer the domain for the use of the adult entertainment industry.

With just days to go before the October 28th deadline, Wedlake Bell say that many businesses have yet to take advantage of this procedure. Failing to do so could leave a brand vulnerable to cyber-squatters, who might then effectively hold the brand owner to ransom for the rights to control the .xxx domain.

Jonathan Cornthwaite, an Intellectual Property Partner at Wedlake Bell, comments: "Few consumer-facing businesses outside the adult-entertainment industry would want to be falsely associated with a .xxx domain name without their consent."

"For businesses that have spent years building a consumer-friendly brand and investing in its reputation, false association with a .xxx domain could be both embarrassing and commercially damaging."

Wedlake Bell explain that under the unprecedented 'SUNRISE B' scheme operated by the ICM Registry, businesses can safeguard their registered brands by notifying their details to one of ICM's accredited registrars, and thus 'ring-fence' their brands from unauthorised association with a .xxx domain name for the next ten years. They add that ICANN (the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) approved the creation of the new .xxx domain in March this year.

Jonathan Cornthwaite continues: "As the October deadline approaches, brand owners who have not yet taken this step could be at a real disadvantage."

"Many brand owners are taking the view that prevention is better than cure, and that the expenditure of a few hundred dollars on the official 'SUNRISE B' notification fee is probably better than waiting for problems to start later."

"It is likely that there are plenty of brand owners out there who are simply unaware of the deadline or are just crossing their fingers that they won't be targeted. But doing nothing could risk their brands being tarnished, maybe irrevocably." He adds "Time is running out, as 'SUNRISE B' is approaching sunset."

Wedlake Bell explain that businesses who fail to register, and subsequently find themselves victim of .xxx cybersquatting, may still take action under (for example) the Uniform Dispute Resolution Policy.

However, this is likely to be far more expensive and time-consuming than pre-emptive notification, and, whilst the dispute is being resolved and the cybersquatter is being dislodged, the brand's reputation could suffer, perhaps irreparably.