The USA Today headline “Taylor Swift Buys Porn-Site Domain Names” has likely been generating a huge number of clicks , but the real story is less titillating and more serious for businesses of all sizes. The .Adult, .Porn and .Sucks domains are launching in June, and companies are rushing to obtain them prior to the ‘general availability’ period where anyone can grab any name.

While it’s possible that Healthy.Adult might be of use for a wellness company, most mainstream businesses are unlikely to want their brand names associated with .Porn or .Adult.

One can only imagine the problems that “TaylorSwift.Porn” could generate. The pop star’s off-the-charts popularity would make it easy for a malware author to infect unsuspecting visitors. A phishing scam could request password credentials to see the (as far as anyone knows, non-existent) pornographic content. Swift’s team is smart to get ahead of this.

The concept of obtaining names that you won’t use is called “defensive registration.” Companies who use “MyCompanyName.Com” but also buy the .Net and .Org domains are already familiar with the concept of defensive registration — they don’t want others taking the name as a way to confuse or mislead customers.

The ‘XXX’ domain came out a few years ago, and many companies and brands rushed to obtain their names before others did so. Harvard.xxx, as an example, leads to a page saying the domain is “reserved from registration.” Those who own their .XXX defensively can also obtain their .Porn and .Adult domains via owner ICM’s “Domain Matching program.”

Companies with a trademark can get their name in either of these domains (or any others that are coming out soon) by registering in the Trademark Clearinghouse (TMCH), a service that helps ensure registered trademark owners an early place in line before domains are open to the public. (DomainSkate is a TMCH Agent and can help with this.) But the time to act is now — trademark owners only have until April 1 (no joke) to claim their .Adult or .Porn names before they will end up paying a premium to own or obtain them.

The .Sucks name may be even more problematic. Momentus, the registry running .Sucks, is looking for $2500 per name for registered trademarks. That may be fine for an airline or a department store chain, but many small enterprises (such as DomainSkate) own registered trademarks and don’t really want to spend that kind of of money.

Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W. Va), who is chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, stated in a letter to ICANN (the domain name governing body) during March of 2014 that his view is the registry borders on the absurd:

“The business model behind this [generic top level domain] seems to be the following: force large corporations, small businesses, non-profits, and even individuals, to pay ongoing fees to prevent seeing the phrase ‘sucks’ appended to their names on the Internet… […] [a]s a number of commenters asked during the public review period of these applications, will your organization allow a third party to purchase and operate ‘ICANN.sucks’?”

The new domains present a great opportunity for branding companies. Domains such as .NYC and .Club are seeing success when properly appended to relevant businesses. But the challenges with .Sucks, .Porn and .Adult are unique. With over 540 new domains live this year, businesses of all sizes have to watch what’s registered with their name (or close variations on their name) to make sure they don’t lose search credibility, create customer confusion, or even lose profits to fake sites.

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