One of the many nightmares that haunt business owners these days is how to protect your intellectual property – your name, your trademarks, your brand – online.  Consider the latest monster in the closet: a new top level domain name extension (“TLD”), .xxx, intended for use by the adult entertainment industry, is being rolled out this year.

In the same way that unscrupulous “cybersquatters” have registered trade names of businesses with other new TLDs in the past, beginning December 6, 2011 it will be possible for someone to register an adult site using your business name and the .xxx extension.  This will likely be a very popular TLD, therefore, it’s particularly important to consider protecting your trade name in this new environment.

A sunrise period for those holding U.S. federally registered trademarks ends October 28.  Any other trademark holders who wish to defensively register their trademarks and business names, to prevent any others from registering those names, must participate in the “landrush” once general registration opens on December 6.  For more information, see Launch Overview.

To register your trademark with a .xxx domain name, you can use any ICANN (Internet Corporation of Assigned Names and Number) accredited domain name registrar; click here to see a list.  Disputes over who may actually register a name may be resolved through ICANN’s Uniform Domain Name Resolution Policy (UDRP), but it’s a complex process.

Defensively registering your name with a .xxx TLD isn’t the end of the story.  It’s just the beginning of the business owners need to vigilantly protect their trademarks online.  New TLDs are being approved all the time.  For example, beginning in 2012, generic – that is, custom – TLDs will be available for registration; More on new gTLDs

For more information and guidance in protecting your intellectual property online, please contact our Business Law Group partner, David A. Closson at [email protected].