UC Berkeley and other schools, including Harvard University, have bought web addresses in adult-oriented Internet domains to avoid trademark infringement from third parties.
Starting in June, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, or ICANN, will open several new generic Top Level Domains, or gTLDs — a class of Internet domains such as “.com” and “.net” — to the public, including “.porn” “.adult” and “.sucks.” The imminent release by ICANN, the international nonprofit that manages and sells Internet domain names, has motivated some trademark holders to preemptively purchase addresses in their likenesses.
The practice has recently gained attention after companies such as Microsoft and celebrities, including pop superstar Taylor Swift, purchased “.porn” and “.adult” web addresses. These actions could help avoid implied associations with websites created by third parties.
The administration has previously made “defensive registrations” against trademark infringement, including purchasing registrations for addresses in the “.xxx” gTLD, including “Cal.xxx,” “GoldenBears.xxx” and “UCBerkeley.xxx,” according to Jean Bednarz, director of communications in the office of the associate vice chancellor and chief financial officer.
“Since so many more gTLDs are being launched every day, we’re reviewing all options but fortunately, we have other remedies if we choose not to acquire additional defensive registrations,” Bednarz said in an email.
Bednarz said the campus can additionally address trademark infringement by sending cease-and-desist notices or through ICANN’s Uniform Domain-Name Dispute Resolution.
Unlike the “.porn” and “.adult” domains, “.xxx” has been in public circulation for several years.
Before becoming available for public purchase, domain names must typically go through a “sunrise period,” a 30-day window in which trademark holders are given special priority to purchase Web addresses that are the same or similar to their trademarks. The sunrise period for “.porn” and “.adult” domains began March 1.
The UC Office of the President has not preventatively purchased any domain names, according to UC spokesperson Brooke Converse, who said she does not know of any plans to do so.
“Increasing the quantity of gTLDs gets directly to what we do as an organization — encouraging competition choice and creativity in the marketplace by giving consumers more options,” said James Cole, global media coordinator for ICANN.
Cole said one advantage of gTLDs is their ability to target a particular interest or location, such as “.kiwi” for New Zealanders, allowing communities to “come together around a domain.”
The new adult-oriented domains and others were created through a 2011 ICANN initiative to encourage online innovation and competition by increasing the number of gTLDs available to the public. Of the nearly 2000 international submissions for gTLD status, 574 new domains have since gone online.
The availability of gTLDs names can be checked at ICANN’s database.