Cybersquatting, domain grabbing, unauthorized and abusive use: domains are often the starting point for diverse attack vectors of cybercriminals. The possible countermeasures are barely less extensive: there is a large variety from proactive domain management to monitoring potential trademark infringements. So-called (domain) blocking services are also on the list of possible solutions. At first glance, they seem to blight many of the origins of trademark infringements. But what is behind these services and what do domain and trademark owners need to bear in mind?
As the name suggests, domain blocking blocks the registration of a domain name – often in conjunction with a trademark – and thus prevents unauthorized use. In 2011, such a blocking service was introduced at the launch of the .xxx domain, known as Sunrise B Blocks. These prevented domain registrations of matching trademarks under the .xxx top-level domain (TLD). They were intended to protect companies from inappropriate use of the brand name by third parties. On December 1, 2021, the blockings, which were concluded for ten years at the time, will expire. However, with AdultBlock, the responsible ICM Registry already offers a successor solution.
AdultBlock and AdultBlock+
The AdultBlock is intended to offer trademark owners increased protection in the .adult, .porn, .sex and .xxx namespaces, which were created specifically for adult entertainment. Blocking makes it impossible for third parties to register domains under these four TLDs and possibly misuse them for malicious purposes. To use this service, trademark owners must have a current Trademark Clearinghouse (TMCH) Signed Marked Data (SMD) file. Alternatively, an expiring Sunrise B Block can be converted.
The Trademark Clearinghouse is a database of ICANN, which was created in the course of the introduction of new top-level domains for owners of registered trademarks. It automatically informs trademark holders about the use of trademarks in domains.
AdultBlock+ customers also have the option to block multiple labels or brand names including the respective Unicode variants, homographs and IDNs.
At LEMARIT, existing registrations of a .xxx domain that was previously part of a Sunrise B Block will be automatically renewed for one year.
DPML and DPML+
Another form of domain blocking is the so-called Domains Protected Marks List (DPML). This service also requires a registered trademark and a valid SMD file in the TMCH. If the trademark is registered in the DPML, new domain registrations with the same trademark term are blocked under 241 nTLDs. Thus, this service is more extensive than the simple registration in the TMCH, which informs about the use of the trademark, but does not prevent third-party registrations.
The Plus variant also covers up to three additional SMDs, e.g. misspellings or words that include the brand term. The term is also doubled to ten years compared to the DPML.
About the pros and cons
The advantages of another protective wall in the form of domain blocking may be obvious in view of the supposed ease of use, but it is worth taking a look at the details.
While blocked domains are protected against new registrations by third parties, they are not equivalent to registered domains which trademark owners can dispose of at any time. Domains that are already registered by others also fall through the cracks with these services. The frequent lack of relevance is made clearer by the list of TLDs covered, e.g. in the case of DPML. Among the 241 nTLDs, there are numerous domain extensions that are in most cases irrelevant to many industries, such as .coffee, .plumbing or .dentist.
The benefits of the AdultBlock are offset by the relatively low registration figures: Only 0.03% of all domain registrations originate from the four TLDs .adult, .porn, .sex and .xxx. Interest in a brand name is also likely to be rather low in the adult entertainment sector, which limits the risk of misuse.
For trademark owners, domain blocking services can be an effective option in the fight against trademark infringement, but their relevance must be thoroughly weighed up. If you are interested in domain blocking, LEMARIT will be happy to inform you individually about your options and the corresponding costs.