July 17, 2011 3:45 pm

Offer to protect trademark from .xxx domain

Businesses wanting to prevent their trademarks from being used on the new .xxx internet domain will be offered the chance to pay $200 to $300 for a blocking service from September.

A new internet domain name, .xxx is set to launch later this year as a place to locate adult entertainment on the internet. However, the creation of the new internet domain, which joins the ubiquitous .com and .net, has been highly controversial and raised concerns that cybersquatters could register existing business names on the domain – such as ft.xxx – causing companies embarrassment and reputational damage.

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ICM Registry, the company that will run the .xxx domain, is hoping to allay these concerns by allowing trademark owners to permanently exclude their names from the internet’s new red-light district for a one-off fee.

Although the payment will represent yet another charge for businesses looking to protect their internet identity, it will be cheaper than the current cost of protection. Businesses often face thousands of pounds in legal fees reclaiming internet names that have been snapped up by opportunists on .com, .net and similar top level domains. Companies such as Microsoft, Google and Apple have in the past faced lengthy battles to secure internet names for their trademarked products and services.

Stuart Lawley, chief executive, said ICM Registry would not be making any profit from the blocking fees, but merely be recovering the costs it would face in checking trademark owners’ credentials.

“We are trying to show that .xxx is a responsible internet domain,” Mr Lawley said. “The triple-x domain has sensitivities so we have gone out of our way to provide protection for companies.”

If the .xxx blocking service works it could serve as a model for the hundreds of other new internet top level domains which are due to be created next year. From next year, organisations will be able to create their own top level domain names, such as .london, or .coca-cola, a move that has reignited fears about cybersquatting.

In addition to the blocking service, ICM has signed an $8m deal with McAfee, the IT security company, to have sites on the domain scanned daily for viruses, and will monitor for under-age content.

“There is a perception that adult sites have a greater degree of [malicious software] on them. We want to assure people that is not the case,” Mr Lawley said.

Mr Lawley has had to wage an 11-year battle to get approval for the .xxx domain, including a $6m lawsuit, which it finally won last year. The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (Icann), the body that runs the directory of the world’s internet names, approved the creation of .xxx in March, to the dismay of many governments and corporations.

ICM said it had already received nearly 900,000 expressions of interest for reserving .xxx names.

Companies can register to block names from September 7 until October 28.

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