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U.S. Congressional Trademark Caucus Haggles Over Price

John Berard

It was standing-room-only at the Congressional Trademark Caucus session in the Rayburn House Office Building in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday, April 6. The topic, brand protection in the new top level internet domain names, is still, it seems, a draw.

With nearly two years' experience and statistical evidence of far fewer problems at far lower costs to brand owners than opponents of the program said would occur, it might be expected that the tone would cool. But the price of peace, I guess, remains eternal vigilance. At least that's why I was there on behalf of Vox Populi Registy, the company that has brought dotSucks names to the internet.

The Caucus was revived (its own word) last Spring by U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley and other elected officials who sought to "educate members of the House and Senate, as well our constituents, about the valuable role trademarks play in the global marketplace."

It is that laudable mission that brought representatives of companies (20th Century Fox and Marriott), a registry (Donuts), intellectual property outside counsel (Mayer Brown) and internet domain name governing body, ICANN, to the panel.

The hour-long conversation among the panelists covered a lot of familiar ground. It included a sort of top five brand holder criticisms: the cost to brands for defensive action, the lack of proof that the new names were necessary, the inadequacies of rights protection mechanisms and the advantage held by domain name companies to influence ICANN policy.

I hear what you are saying, "But wait, that's only a list of four, you said it was a top five." Yes, number five is everyone's favorite example (here again, the only one cited), Vox Populi Registry. But like the game of adding the phrase "in bed" to the end of every fortune ever cracked out of a cookie — "you will run into an old friend...in bed" — it gets your attention, but it doesn't make it true.

Those who have followed Vox Populi Registry know we have never shied away from talking to those who want to talk to us about our business and intent. But try as we might, the notion that we have created a platform for innovation and don't just seek to flood the internet with disposable addresses has been lost in the chorus of criticism over price.

There are two key points to make about the cost of registering a dotSucks domain name. First, the price is set at what we see as the value of the platform, yet still well below what is routinely spent even by small companies on market research, customer loyalty and customer service programs. And second, the price is, in the parlance of business schools, a significant barrier to entry for cybersquatting.

Early momentum offers support for our point-of-view. It is clear that most of the online initiatives deployed on the Vox Populi Registry platform are seeking to reach a wider, younger more mobile audience for whom the word "sucks" is not a pejorative, but a call-to-action. ThisMeeting.sucks, PDF.sucks, LifeInsurance.sucks and Logging.sucks are all examples of the form.

We also know that companies are coming around to the market value of the approach. Recent ad campaigns alone offer proof. When Taco Bell shouts, "Sharing Sucks," Gett calls out Uber with "Surge Sucks" and Jolly Rancher parodies the trials of entering the NFL by noting that "Being a Rookie Sucks" it is hard to miss the trend.

All this activity, taken together and despite the criticisms heard again at the Trademark Caucus session, tells us that brands are inching closer to making a dotSucks portal a meaningful reality.

By John Berard, Founder, Credible Context & CEO, Vox Populi Registry

Related topics: Domain Names, Intellectual Property, Law, Policy & Regulation, Top-Level Domains


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