Starting  June 1, 2015, the general public will be able to  register and use .SUCKS domain names. Before this happens, trademark owners have an opportunity to preemptively register .SUCKS domains for their brands to keep them out of the hands of cybersquatters, disgruntled customers and employees, or other potential gripe site operators.

This "sunrise period" begins March 30 and runs to May 29. During this period, registration is available to trademark owners that are registered through the Trademark Clearinghouse (TMCH). 

The registry for the new .SUCKS gTLD, Vox Populi, is promoting the new gTLD as a place "designed to help consumers find their voices and allow companies to find the value in criticism." Ralph Nader, political activist and consumer advocate, has spoken out in support of the .SUCKS gTLD, saying, "the word 'sucks' is now a protest word and it is up to people to give it more meaning." Click here for Mr. Nader's message. Trademark owners may be tempted to defensively register a .SUCKS domain, but they should think twice before making the investment.

The supposed purpose of .SUCKS—for voicing criticism—separates it from other new gTLDs, like .COMPANY and .GREEN. Customers and watchdog organizations may, for example, think BrandX.SUCKS should be reserved for legitimate criticism about Brand X and may view Brand X’s registration of the BrandX.SUCKS domain name  as an act of chilling speech.     

Also, there is the hefty cost for a .SUCKS domain. Registering a single .SUCKS domain during the sunrise period can cost approximately $2,500. Multiply that by the number of brands you wish to protect, add in the annual renewal fees (likely to be quite substantial as well), and it can be expensive to thwart what many gripe site operators will do on social media or through the use of alternative domain names anyway. 

Moreover, the cost to register a .SUCKS domain during general registration is $575. This is a fairly steep price for a cybersquatter who wants to monetize a domain through a linking farm. Accordingly, some people believe .SUCKS is not a leading gTLD candidate for a run-of-the-mill cybersquatter given the hundreds of cheaper gTLDs that are available. For example, a moderately creative and motivated critic or cybersquatter could simply register an alternative like BrandXSucks.COM.

Brand owners’ choices in the new gTLD era remain the same—monitor and enforce, or defensively register to mitigate the chance that enforcement will be needed. In either case, it is wise for brand owners to investigate any .SUCKS domain incorporating their trademarks. It may be possible to recover the domain under the trademark laws or the domain name system's arbitration program.  

Ballard Spahr’s Intellectual Property Department counsels clients on a range of IP matters including trademark and domain name issues. We also work with early-stage growth companies and entrepreneurs in commercializing their IP assets.


Copyright © 2015 by Ballard Spahr LLP.
www.ballardspahr.com
(No claim to original U.S. government material.)

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without prior written permission of the author and publisher.

This alert is a periodic publication of Ballard Spahr LLP and is intended to notify recipients of new developments in the law. It should not be construed as legal advice or legal opinion on any specific facts or circumstances. The contents are intended for general informational purposes only, and you are urged to consult your own attorney concerning your situation and specific legal questions you have.


Related Practices

Intellectual Property
Trademarks