The .sucks conundrum

By Gretchen M. Olive, Director Policy & Industry Affairs, CSC Digital Brand Services

Gretchen Olive
Gretchen M. Olive, Director Policy & Industry Affairs, CSC Digital Brand Services

The Vox Populi Registry officially launched the .sucks gTLD on Monday, March 30, 2015. Brand owners have long dreaded this launch because “sucks” domains present special public relations and brand enforcement challenges. The situation is compounded by the pricing categories the registry will implement for this launch.

The .sucks gTLD will launch in the following phases:

Sunrise Phase (March 30 – May 29, 2015): Registrants with a validated TMCH (Trademark Clearinghouse) filing can apply for a matching domain name. Multiple applications for the same name will result in an auction.

General Availability (June 1, 2015): Open to all interested registrants. Domain names will be allocated on a first-come, first-served basis.

OK, nothing too controversial there. However, during the Sunrise Phase the registry is suggesting a price of $2,495 USD for a one-year registration. But wait, it gets worse! Renewals are the same price! Even worse, trademark owners won’t be able to save money by rolling the dice and waiting until General Availability to secure trademarked domains because both TMCH-registered with SMD files and trademarks that were registered during Sunrise in past TLD launches (what the registry is calling “Sunrise Premium Names”) will be priced the same—$2,495 USD—in General Availability. Wow!

Now, the registry is offering a “Domain Blocking” product during General Availability for $199 USD. Some trademark holders may be tempted to think that this one-year block is an option for domains that exactly match their trademarks (TMCH-registered with SMD file and Sunrise Premium Names), but the registry has stated that these names are NOT eligible for Domain Blocking during General Availability. Unbelievable!

Then there is the matter of a new price category the registry plans to introduce in September 2015 called “Consumer Advocate Subsidized,” where the registrant can get ANY .sucks domain name for $9.95 USD. Some brand owners may be thinking they will just hold out until then and register a slew of “Consumer Advocate Subsidized” registrations for all their trademarks and protect them that way.

Unfortunately, that approach won’t work. Corporate registration is forbidden in this price category and, to add insult to injury, all “Consumer Advocate Subsidized” registrations will be linked to a free “forum page” on the platform. Thus, while no registrant-specific DNS will be assigned to names registered in this price category, every name registered in this category will resolve to a forum page.

Given the complexities around enforcing trademarks in situations that may give rise to freedom of expression claims, Uniform Rapid Suspension System (URS) and Uniform Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP) complaints are an uncertain rights-enforcement path laced with PR landmines. Ugh!

So what is a brand owner to do? Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all answer. While the registry has positioned .sucks as a gTLD that “fosters debate” and a place to “share opinions,” it has unfairly placed a huge burden on brand owners’ budgets and seemingly backed them into a corner.

CSC Digital Brand Services is hesitant to recommend that every brand owner run out and get .sucks domain names for their key brands/products in Sunrise because it is cost-prohibitive and only adds to the registry’s coffers. However, we recognize that the nature and market position of many brands dictates that they do register.

So, we are doing a couple of things to help our clients manage this difficult situation with minimum expenditure and risk. First, CSC Digital Brand Services is offering at-cost registration for Sunrise and Sunrise Premium Names (the registrar price is $1,999 USD) during Sunrise and General Availability periods, respectively, with only a $25 USD processing fee per registration to cover our handling costs. Pricing will be the same for renewals. Similarly, we will offer at-cost .sucks Domain Blocking in General Availability ($149 USD + $25 USD processing fee) to minimize the budgetary impact of Domain Blocking on our clients. Pricing will be the same for renewals.

Secondly, CSC’s Global Brand Advisory Team stands ready to assist clients with a complimentary .sucks Risk Mitigation Analysis based on proprietary analytics. This report will help you prioritize what registrations you should do and what phase you should do them in calibrated by your brand profile, risk tolerance, and budget.

Please contact your CSC Strategic Account Manager to obtain your complimentary .sucks Risk Mitigation Analysis.

Learn more about CSC Digital Brand Service’s full suite of new gTLD services.


(NOTE: The .sucks Premium Name list, which is different than the Sunrise Premium list, will be the subject of a post in the near future. We are still waiting for the registry to release the list.)