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Want Beyonce.xxx? JustinBieber.xxx? Forget it

Kevin Murphy, August 22, 2011, Domain Registries

ICM Registry has banned a whole bunch of celebrity names from the new .xxx top-level domain, in order to scupper cybersquatters and opportunistic porn webmasters.

Want to register Beyonce.xxx, AngelinaJolie.xxx, OlsenTwins.xxx, Madonna.xxx, BritneySpears.xxx, KimKardashian.xxx, HalleBerry.xxx or WinonaRyder.xxx?

How about JustinBieber.xxx, BradPitt.xxx, CharlieSheen.xxx, SimonCowell.xxx, GeorgeMichael.xxx, EltonJohn.xxx, VerneTroyer.xxx, DonaldTrump.xxx or OsamaBinLaden.xxx?

Forget it. According to Whois records, you’re out of luck on all counts. They’ve all been reserved by the registry.

These are all among what I’m guessing is at least hundreds – maybe more – of celebrity names that ICM has blocked from ever being registered.

The company won’t say how many celebrities have been afforded this privilege, or how it came up with the list, but it has said in the past that a total of about 15,000 domains have been registry-reserved.

That also includes the names of the world’s capital cities, culturally sensitive strings put forward by a handful of governments, and the “premium” names that ICM plans to auction.

I’m wondering what the cut-off point is for celebrities. How famous do you have to be to get your .xxx blocked by default by the registry? B-List minimum? D-List? What database is ICM using?

American Pie actor Tara Reid just entered Celebrity Big Brother here in the UK, which pretty much means her career is over, and she’s managed to make it to ICM’s reserved list.

While ICM has always said it would help protect personal names from abuse, it’s never been entirely clear about how it would go about it.

Its registry agreement with ICANN has for some time said that “unauthorized registration of personal names” would be forbidden, but there were no real details to speak of.

As I reported last week, its souped-up cybersquatting policy, Rapid Evaluation Service, has a special provision for personal names.

But presumptively blocking a subset of the world’s famous people from .xxx is bound to raise questions in the wider context of the ICANN new gTLD program, however.

As far as I can tell, no corporate trademarks have been given the same rights in .xxx as, say, David Cameron or Barack Obama.

If ICM can protect Piers Morgan’s “brand”, why can it not also protect CNN? Or Microsoft or Coke or Google? None of these brands are registry-reserved, according to Whois.

The trademark lobby will raise this question, no doubt. ICM has its own celebrity Globally Protected Marks List for .xxx, which only applies to individuals, they could argue.

There are some differences, of course.

Celebrities sometimes find they have a harder time winning cybersquatting complaints using UDRP if they have not registered their names as trademarks, which can be quite hard to come by, for example.

(UPDATE: And, of course, they may not qualify for ICM’s sunrise period if they don’t have trademarks, as EnCirca’s Tom Barrett points out in the comments below).

In addition, celebrity skin is a popular search topic on the web, which may give cybersquatters a greater impetus to register their names as domains, despite the high price of .xxx.

Also, if a registry were to reserve the brand names of, say, the Fortune 1000, it would wind up blocking many dictionary or otherwise multi-purpose strings, which is obviously not usually the case with personal names.

Which top brands turned down their .co domains?

Playboy, Pepsi and Pizza Hut are among 17 of the world’s top 100 brands that did not use the .co sunrise period to register their trademarks as .co domain names.

This is effectively the first empirical data we have to judge the demand for a Globally Protected Marks List along the lines of that which ICANN was toying with for its new TLD program.

.CO Internet, the registry operator behind the newly liberalized Colombian top-level domain, chose to implement a Specially Protected Marks List as one of several IP-protection mechanisms.

The list, maintained by Deloitte, comprises the 100 trademarks thought to be the most valuable, and the most rigorously defended, on the internet.

All of these marks, which include some generic dictionary words, are classified as registry reserved and will be impossible to register unless you are the trademark owner.

Yet 83 of the companies on the list chose to register their names in the .co sunrise anyway.

This may show that famous brands are more interested in owning a name that resolves, rather than merely defensively registering in order to keep their marks out of the hands of cybersquatters.

I can only speculate as to why these 83 chose to participate in the sunrise.

Two obvious reasons are the need to establish a Colombian presence on the internet, and the desire to capture any typo traffic from people miskeying “.com”.

For both these reasons, the data is probably not a reliable indicator of how these companies would act during a generic TLD sunrise.

Of the 100 marks on the Deloitte list, these are the 17 that have so far chosen not to acquire their domains:

Accenture, Accor, Armani, Blackberry, BMW, Carrefour, Dell, Fedex, Ferrari, General Electric, Nivea, Pedigree, Pepsi, Pizza Hut, Playboy, Prada, Reebok, Sanyo, SAP, Sheraton, Tiffany and Total.

Because these are registry-reserved names, there’s no danger of cybersquatters picking them up when .co goes to general availability in a little under 11 days.

UPDATE 2010-07-13: See the comment from .CO Internet below. It seems the SPM list is not as useful for brand holders as I had thought.

Lego launches attack on new TLDs

Could little yellow plastic men be the death of the new top-level domain process?

Toymaker Lego has filed a scathing criticism of ICANN’s latest Draft Applicant Guidebook for prospective new TLD registries, saying it ignores trademark holders.

Lego, one of the most prolific enforcers of trademarks via the UDRP, said that the latest DAG “has not yet resolved the overarching trademark issue”.

DAG v4 contains new protections designed to make it easier for trademark holders to defend their rights in new TLD namespaces. But Lego reckons these protections are useless.

The Trademark Clearinghouse is NOT a rights protection mechanism but just a database. Such a database does not solve the overarching trademark issues that were intended to be addressed.

Lego also says that the Uniform Rapid Suspension service outlined in DAG v4 is much weaker than it wanted.

“It doesn’t seem to be more rapid or cheaper than the ordinary UDRP,” Lego’s deputy general counsel Peter Kjaer wrote.

Lego thinks that a Globally Protected Marks List, which was at one time under consideration for inclusion in the DAG, would be the best mechanism to protect trademarks.

ICANN still seems to ignore that cybersquatting and all kinds of fraud on the internet is increasing in number and DAG 4 contains nothing that shows trademark owners that ICANN has taken our concerns seriously.

The comment, which is repeated verbatim in a letter from Arla Foods also filed today, is the strongest language yet from the IP lobby in the DAG v4 comment period.

Rumblings at the ICANN meeting Brussels two weeks ago, and earlier, suggest that some companies may consider filing lawsuits to delay the new TLD process, if they don’t get what they want in the final Applicant Guidebook.

ICANN’s top brass, meanwhile, are hopeful of resolving the trademark issues soon, and getting the guidebook close to completion, if not complete, by the Cartagena meeting in December.

Deloitte brand list encourages UDRP claims

Kevin Murphy, March 31, 2010, Domain Policy

The number of UDRP claims a company files will help it qualify for a list of 100 brands that qualify for special protection in new gTLD launches.

Deloitte’s new brand list, expected to be published within a week, was created in response to ICANN’s call for a “globally protected marks list” or GPML, that new gTLDs can use in their sunrise periods.

The number of times a brand has been subject to a UDRP complaint is one of four criteria Deloitte is using for inclusion on the list.

.CO Internet, manager of the newly relaunched .co ccTLD, is already using the list in its sunrise period, referring to it as a “Specially Protected Marks” list.

Deloitte is more cautious, pointing out that while it was designed to fulfil some of the objectives of the ICANN GPML, it is not “the” GPML.

The company says: “the list published by Deloitte specifically intends to provide a fair view on which brands stand out in the safeguarding and enforcement of rights in the context of domain names.”

To make it onto the list, brands are assessed on these criteria: the web site’s ranking, the number of trademarks registered worldwide, whether the brand has participated in a previous sunrise, and how often the brand is cybersquatted.

For this last criterion: “Deloitte has reviewed in particular how many times a certain trademark has been invoked in the context of domain name dispute resolution proceedings, in particular in UDRP.”