The beginning of .xxx domain name disputes

Article written by: Thomas Huthwaite    |   Friday 3rd February 2012

In the months leading up to the introduction of .xxx sponsored top level domains, thousands of companies worldwide rushed to defensively register their .xxx domains and thereby protect their brand names.  Some companies publicly criticised the new scheme, stating that cybersquatting and domain name disputes would certainly increase.

Since .xxx domain names became generally available for registration on 6 December 2011, at least five domain name complaints have been lodged with the official dispute resolution bodies.

The first complaint was filed with the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) on 29 December 2011 by VIPINDIRIM, the company behind eCommerce giant, Markafoni (reportedly valued at US$200 million).  It appears that the domain name markafoni.xxx was registered on 6 December 2011 by an Istanbul registrant.

More recently, Virgin Group Limited and Twentieth Century Fox have filed applications with the National Arbitration Forum (NAF) in an attempt to gain control of the domain names richardbranson.xxx and FoxStudios.xxx respectively.  The domain name FoxStudios.xxx was at the time listed on the online store eBay for sale at US$1,975,000.

Other official complaints relate to Valero.xxx and Heb.xxx.

More generally, there have been companies who regret missing the opportunity to register their .xxx domain names but have yet to make an official complaint.  A Californian resident purchased the domain name HuffingtonPost.xxx, preventing the American news agency
Huffington Post from registration.  The registrant has already stated his plans to sell the .xxx domain name.

The cybersquatters behind MSNBC.xxx and NBCNews.xxx have also stated their intent to make money from their registrations rather than to use them for adult entertainment purposes.

However, not all is lost for those faced with the issue of cybersquatting.  Any person or body claiming to be the rightful owner of a trade mark may apply to one of the official dispute resolution bodies, such as WIPO or NAF.  All buyers of .xxx domain names have had to agree to arbitration to resolve any such issues.  While the system in theory works on a “first come, first serve” basis, trade mark and domain name laws generally support trade mark owners, and admonish cybersquatters, making it more difficult to make money from the sale of domain names.

If you would like more information or help with searching or registering .xxx domain names, please contact us.  Baldwins offers a full range of domain name services, including WHOIS searches, strategy advice, registration and domain name complaints.

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