The new top level domain that many love to hate is now available to registered trademark holders – but pretty soon it’ll be open to everybody else.

We told you to expect it, and now it’s happening: new generic Top Level Domains (gTLDs) are becoming available almost daily. (Fuzzy on gTLDs? Check out our post from last year for more background.) Now would be a good time for businesspeople to focus on the new gTLD that many love to hate – .SUCKS.

Dot-SUCKS is currently in its “Sunrise Period”. That’s important if you’ve got a registered trademark, because that means that you’ve only got until May 29, 2015 to take advantage of your rights as a registered trademark holder. The “Sunrise Period”, of course, is the time during which trademark owners who have registered their marks in ICANN’s Trademark Clearinghouse can get first dibs on registration of their mark in the .SUCKS domain. After the Sunrise Period closes (on May 29), registrations will be on a first-come/first-served basis and your trademark registration won’t necessarily help you out if somebody else – a competitor, a disgruntled former employee, an unsympathetic consumer advocacy group, etc., etc. – happens to get in line ahead of you.

So if you (a) hold a registered trademark and (b) want to keep anybody else from signing up for “[Your Trademark].SUCKS”, NOW is the time to act. Don’t worry, you won’t be the first. Far from it: a convenient ticker running on the website of Vox Populi Registry (the folks who run the .SUCKS registry) indicates that the following big names have already signed themselves up: XBOXLIVE, GUITARCENTER, CITIBANK, PLAYTEX, WALMART, UNDERARMOUR, VISA, TUPPERWARE, among lots of others.

According to Vox Populi (Latin for “voice of the people”), .SUCKS is intended to create an Internet space “for raw consumer commentary and corporate interests to cohere … enabl[ing] the benefits of the dialog without dampening its usual initial vehemence… [and] mak[ing] it even easier for consumers to find, suggest, cajole, complain and engage on specific products, services and companies.” Vox Populi’s website includes a short video that features stirring audio and video clips of Martin Luther King and Ralph Nader, with the latter proclaiming that “the word ‘sucks’ is now a protest word.”

Notwithstanding those lofty goals and renowned soundbite sources, it’s obvious from its pricing structure that Vox Populi recognizes that registered trademark holders likely have a serious interest in keeping the “theirtrademark.SUCKS” domain out of unfriendly hands. Folks wishing to avail themselves of the Sunrise Period opportunity will be charged $2,499 for the “standard” option. (There’s also an individually priced “Premium” option.) A bit pricey, but after the Sunrise Period goes away, .SUCKS domains can be had for $249, or possibly even less than $10. (The $10 rate would be limited to applicants willing to agree to use the domain only to resolve to a website forum devoted to discussion of the product in the domain name.) So it may be expensive for the registered trademark owner to tie down its domain name now, but it’ll be relative peanuts for anybody else – including the aforementioned competitors, disgruntled former employees, etc., etc. – when the .SUCKS gTLD is opened for general availability. While that pricing structure has been criticized by a number of folks, there doesn’t appear to be any change in the immediate offing.

So there is clear incentive for registered mark holders to tie their .SUCKS domains down now, rather than risk having them scooped up on the cheap by others.

And while we’re at it, let us remind you that new gTLDs are being rolled out every week by ICANN. As we have explained in previous posts, it’s a very good idea for you to be proactive in protecting your trademarks and other key identifiers as well as exploring the new business venues that these top level domains will open. 

Why? Because of obvious promotional and protective reasons. First, the new gTLDs present new marketing and other opportunities for you and your company to take advantage of. New gTLDs will include a host of terms likely to offer more readily identifiable domain names for your business than .COM (where desirable domain names have long-since disappeared) and new opportunities for online marketing – think ROCK.RADIO and COUNTRY.MUSIC. Opportunities to expand your brand and your business will be plentiful.

Second, the risk that your established identity – as reflected in your trademarks, catch phrases, call letters, etc. – could be diluted if others secure domain names using these valuable properties should be obvious. As discussed above, many businesses want to register their names in .SUCKS and .PORN before someone else does – concerned that there might be a threat to their online reputations if someone else obtains these domain names first.  (Whether aggrieved trademark holders may have anti-cybersquatting or other remedies available is beyond the scope of this post.)

As things currently stand, a myriad of top level domains are opening for Sunrise Registration this month, including .MARKETS, .NEWS, .CAFE and (the long-awaited) .BANK. Again, .SUCKS will be in its Sunrise Period until May 29 and open for General Availability on June 1 at a registrar near you. .PORN (whose Sunrise Period has already closed) will be available for general registration on June 4. Open .XXX domain names, which have been available for some time, currently sell for $99.99 on GoDaddy.

As always, we are ready to help you and your business navigate the thicket of these new top level domain challenges and opportunities. Just contact Kathy Kleiman, Bob Butler, Kevin Goldberg or Jon Markman for assistance.