Brands rush to register ‘.sucks’ domains despite concern over pricing 07 Apr 15
With sunrise now a week old, Vox Populi Registry has placed a running ticker on its website highlighting some of the brands which have registered a ‘.sucks’ domain name. Despite concern over the hefty sunrise fees, brands are not shying away from making registrations, with John Berard, CEO of the registry, stating that the numbers have exceeded his expectations.
Amongst the recent registrations highlighted on the registry’s website this morning are: ‘adp’, ‘aflac’, ‘andreessenhorowitz’, ‘applestore’, ‘baml’, ‘benefitsonline’, ‘bet365’, ‘bce’, ‘blogger’, ‘cam4’, ‘cargill’, ‘cashmanagementaccount’, ‘classen’, ‘converse’, ‘countrywide’, ‘dollarbank’, ‘finalcutpro’, ‘gumtree’, ‘hamptonbay’, ‘hdx’, ‘hollandamerica’, ‘homedecoratorcollections’, ‘homedepot’, ‘hotmail’, ‘intuit’, ‘ipodtouch’, ‘kijiji’, ‘kohler’, ‘landsafe’, ‘lifesbetterwhenwereconnected’, ‘lillypulitzer’, ‘loquo’, ‘mac’, ‘macintosh’, ‘mantis’, ‘merrilllynchwealthmanagement’, ‘msn’, ‘nokia’, ‘patagonia’, ‘samsclub’, ‘sidley-austin’, ‘siri’, ‘slalom’, ‘smartmatic’, ‘standardbank’, ‘sunbrella’, ‘telusmobility’, ‘surface’, ‘telus’, ‘traderinstinct’, ‘trafficmaster’, ‘tsn’, ‘ufc’, ‘ustrust’, ‘veranda’, ‘vissani’, ‘wellsfargo’, ‘windowsphone’, ‘wordpress’ and ‘xbox’. Over on Domain Incite, Kevin Murphy identifies other brands which have been registered, including Instagram, WordPress, Bank of America and Wal-Mart, and celebrities such as Kevin Spacey and Taylor Swift.
So what can be learnt from the above?
First is that brands are clearly seeing the need to register in the string. In the latest World Trademark Review podcast, available now on iTunes, Soundcloud, Stitcher, Pocket Casts or Tune-In, we spoke to Susan Payne, head of legal policy at Valideus, and asked about the ‘.sucks’ sunrise. She commented: “My personal view on ‘.sucks’ is that no brands should seek a sunrise registration. I’d like to see people boycotting that particular registry. If they did – and I realise that this is unlikely – then the registry model is not looking so good. I do recognise that that is a difficult thing when you are an in-house lawyer sitting within a company and know people will be screaming at you if a ‘.sucks’ registration on your brands then materialises. But from my perspective I’d like to see no one register in ‘.sucks’.” The reality, though, is that the concern over being screamed at is overriding cost anxieties - on the presumption that registrations are indeed defensive rather than viewed as an opportunity to host a discussion site centred on the respective brands.
The latter was what John Berard, CEO of Vox Populi Registry, previously told us that he hoped for – that brands would see a ‘.sucks’ presence as an opportunity to engage with consumers: “Our mission is to get the names in use and I come to this from the belief that a company with a trademark will derive value from managing its own ‘.sucks’ site. When looking at online budgets, they can be off chart and a ‘.sucks’ domain can be a key aspect of corporate practice.” At this stage, while the precise intent of registrants is unknown, the smart money would be on them being defensive registrations rather than having a proactive marketing function. As Murphy writes on Domain Incite, “the dominant registrars on the ticker are MarkMonitor, CSC and LexSynergy, which all specialise in brand protection”. If I were a betting man, I’d certainly regard most of the registrations as wholly defensive (unless Kevin Spacey surprises me and decides that a discussion site centred on his performance skills is just what the world is missing).
Looking at the registrations to date, a couple of sectors have been particularly active – tech/online and finance. In some respects this isn’t a surprise – both have been active to date in terms of new gTLD registrations and sunrise participation, and both have the financial wherewithal to cover the recommended $2,499 annual registration fee.
Finally, staying with finances, the registrations to date will have made a healthy contribution to Vox Populi Registry’s balance sheet. Just the 65 registrations mentioned above, using the registry’s $1,999 portion of the sunrise registration fee, will have resulted in a $129,935 contribution to the company’s coffers. Responding to the current level of registrations, Berard told World Trademark Review: “The sunrise registration numbers are strong, consistent and beyond my modest expectations.”
The sunrise is open until May 29, meaning that the registration numbers will rise further still. While concerns have been raised by the IP community over ‘.sucks’ registration fee levels, big brands are clearly seeing the need to reserve their names in the space.
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