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Tilting the Scales Business Issues with a Legal Slant

To Buy an .xxx Domain or Not to Buy?

Posted in *Way Out - Advice, Social Media & The Internet

Dirty Dick’s Crab House is in a dither. Dirty Dick’s owners Pierce Lipp and Gimmy Amira just learned that late last year a completely new domain name –  XXX domains – became available. They hear that all sorts of big companies and universities have jumped on the rush to protect themselves from some off color group grabbing their restaurant’s name for prurient purposes. What should Pierce and Gimmy do?First approved by the ICANN in September, open season on the new XXX domains was unveiled to the public late last year. Universities and countless other schools and business rushed to prevent their good names from falling into the hands of the pornography industry. Fearing that they might be exploited by the adult entertainment business, tens of thousands of “.xxx” website names were snapped up. The University of Kansas bought up http://www.kugirls.xxx/ and http://www.kunurses.xxx/ to avoid the clutches of “some unscrupulous entrepreneur.” Kansas University spent nearly $3,000 to protect the names and do nothing with them. Is it a good idea to buy the .xxx suffix domain name to protect your brand?

Tilting the Scales in Your Favor. Many like last Wednesday’s Dallas Morning News columnist Cheryl Hall think that “Triple X Websites Can Cause Super-size Headaches.” They promote protecting your business trademark / trade name. No doubt, that’s the safest advice.

We say, “not necessarily.” You don’t have to buy the domain names to protect your trademark or trade name says our local Looper Reed trademark expert Carol Wilhelm. Like Ms. Hall both Carol and our internet expert Travis Crabtree suggest that there are those who might benefit from purchasing the Triple X sites – Fortune 500 companies, those with unique brand names, churches, schools and other not for profit institutions.

Some businesses complain they are being forced to buy domain names unnecessarily to protect their brand. The cost to protect the name for several decades is less than the $5,000 average cost to litigate with the World Intellectual Property Association the release of a domain name registered by someone other than the trademark owner. The complainers argue that GoDaddy’s “Defensive Registrations” are costing them thousands per year to protect their trademarks against domain squatters. The only winners of this new domain idea, they contend, are the domain registrars who demand $80 to $125 per year for a Triple X domain name.

Practically speaking, unlike “.org” or “.net” it is not likely that someone seeking your website would mistakenly type “.XXX.” And, if someone truly wants to spoof your brand name to create an adult website, they wouldn’t need to buy an “.XXX” domain name. They could find other ways to do so. Curiously, the ones complaining the loudest are the sex sites. They neither would choose to run a live XXX domain website nor do they wish to be forced to use them. Why? Because businesses and parents can block all access to XXX domains, and these companies often get noticed by a slip of the typing finger or a misspelled word.

As is often the case, the legal risk assessment is the relative value of the cost of protection versus the risk and resulting cost from having to later protect your good name. You make the call.