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Domain-Squatting Takes on New Meaning: ICANN Approves New Top-Level Domain Name

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Domain names have provided a good deal of fodder for the courts over the past few years. One need look only to the last year’s case law to find numerous examples of companies complaining about others’ use of domain names that divert or confuse customers. Usually the controversy arises when someone purchases a domain name with a word (say “Lexus”) in it that another company claims an exclusive right to.  These allegedly wrongful purchasers are usually divided into two camps—those who claim a right to use the word as part of their business (“Lexus-broker.com” for a licensed Lexus broker, for example) and those who wrongfully “squat” on the name and attempt to extort an unreasonable sum from the rightful owner of the mark in exchange for the domain (or to wrongfully divert customers to a site that has nothing to do with the name in question).

While rightful users (like the Lexus brokers) are starting to get consistent relief in the courts, and cybersquatters can be dealt with through a uniform dispute process, a new top-level domain name promises to spice things up considerably in this area: on March 18, 2011, ICANN (the international body that administers domain names) approved the .XXX top-level domain name for—you guessed it—sites providing pornographic content.

Ostensibly, the point of the .XXX domain name is to separate porn from other sites—to keep kids from “mistakenly” stumbling onto adult-content websites when they’re really, honestly, just trying to do their homework. Also, parents can much more easily lock out an entire domain name than individual sites (sorry, kids). So far, so good. But imagine, now, that one morning you’re setting out to peruse Lexus’s website to see next season’s body types, and let’s imagine that you type “Lexus” into Google and click on the first result: lexus.xxx. You may very well see new body types, but one most likely won’t be the LS Hybrid. Think you’re upset? How do you think Lexus feels?

Well, the thoughtful folks at ICANN have come up with a solution: by clicking on https://domains.icmregistry.com/reserve.html, companies and individuals can reserve, in .XXX, domain names that include their name or trademark. Reservations are being taken now, and purchasing will begin in summer of 2011. ICM (http://www.icmregistry.com/about/icm.php) will be the exclusive registry operator, and domain names will cost in the neighborhood of $60. Domain name holders and companies who value their reputation are well advised to reserve their domains now and buy as soon as possible. And if you’re thinking of reserving barelylegalzoom.xxx, you can forget it—we’ve got it already.

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