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Should You Despair Over Pornographers Stealing your Domain?

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Let's say you're an entrepreneur about to launch a new product or company. Naturally, you'd want to protect your new IP or initiative as much as you can -- but have you pondered whether pornographers might swoop in and squat on an Internet domain that bears the name of your new endeavor?

It's a potentially blush-inducing issue, but a legitimate one, all the same. Earlier this year, in March, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers voted to approve a new top-level domain, .xxx, specifically designated for the stuff that makes the world go 'round: porn. Those domains have recently become active.

But, human nature being what it is, that doesn't mean those in the adult-entertainment industry will stick exclusively to that TLD. They might want to horn in on your territory anyway. Smallbizchicago.com has a great analysis of how you can protect yourself, but a standout question is still: Is this really an issue at all for entrepreneurs?

Quentin Boyer, director of PR for Pink Visual -- it goes without saying their site is NSFW, but be forewarned if you're pressing on there for, uhm, "research" -- isn't convinced it is.

"As areas of concern go in the current economic climate, I should think that having their marks infringed upon by pornographers would rank pretty low for most companies," says Boyer. "For that matter, the publicity that befell from having a good -- and public -- tussle over the mark with the pornographer in question might be more beneficial than the infringement was harmful."

Maybe so. But as a society, we're still a tad squeamish about porn and would rather distance ourselves from it as much as possible (at least in public). Having an adult website squatting on a domain you'd like to believe should be rightfully yours is a potentially sticky problem to deal with. If you make a stink, it only draws more attention to your being connected with porn.

"I figured that if [.xxx] ever came into being, it would be a magnet for intellectual property issues, and quite possibly, a lot of IP disputes as well," says Boyer. "The word 'extortion' has been thrown around a lot by those who are unhappy with ICM's approach to potentially infringing registrations and the fee associated with the sunrise periods."

For those unfamiliar, the ICM maintains the registry for this new TLD. Boyer notes that there's "no shortage of illegitimate players in the adult space," which, to be fair, is true of any industry, but the issue specifically with the porn world is that "when you get down to the level of sole proprietors and individual webmasters... [they're] often located in hard-to-reach jurisdictions, leaving the rights holder with little recourse other than UDRP."

Again, for those unfamiliar, UDRP is a dispute-resolution process for domain names.

 

 

But really, Boyer thinks there's no reason to get all hot and bothered about all this. "If I were making 'Widget' brand cigarettes, would I care if an adult company registered Widget.XXX to distribute their porn movies on? So long as they didn't make use of my logos and other trade dress, or imply that my company endorsed or was somehow involved in their porn site, I probably would not care. If I'm making and selling Widget brand children's toys, however, I might care quite a bit."

 

Then again, if you think your demographic is going to mix up a child's toy with an adult one, maybe you're in the wrong business anyway. 

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