Which X-Factor star will be one step ahead on Monday?

It is all about the brand. And in branding terms, there can be no bigger market than the internet.

I hate my Monday morning commute. Not only do I have to sample the underarm aroma from various fellow commuters pressed far closer than you can imagine for comfort but I also have to put up with some inane conversations, usually about characters from Eastenders or Hollyoaks and what their motivations were for their various sins the previous evening. Some people genuinely think that these “soaps” are real life, which is probably more depressing than watching them in the first place.

But the latest trend is the discussion about the X-Factor. That annual “talent show” where contestants openly confess that “this is the biggest moment in their lives”, ignoring the fact that their partner or offspring are waiting in the wings with a look that just says “thanks for that”. According to the Little Fullers, this weekend is when we find out the finalists of the competition who will do battle every weekend from now until Christmas. And with that statement I know I have now lost all powers over the remote control on a Saturday night until the winner has been announced in December.

Some of the previous artists have become global superstars. Leona Lewis won the competition back in 2006 and can now be seen in the celebrity magazines across the Atlantic, hobnobbing with all the A-listers, B-listers and Russell Brand. JLS were actually runners up in 2008 but appear to have hit the big time by almost selling out a concert at Hove cricket ground back in August, and I happened to notice that Same Difference, the brother and sister act who came third in 2007 are due to appear in Pantomime in the production of Broxbourne’s Sleeping Beauty.

The problem is that this is not really a “talent show”, it is a popularity contest. The winners (and losers) are decided by the votes of the general public, and that means who makes themselves the most likeable rather than the most talented. It is all about the brand. And in branding terms, there can be no bigger market than the internet.

The team behind the X-Factor are one step ahead in terms of intellectual property. By the time the judges make and break some of the artists careers on Sunday night, those lucky few who will appear on our TV screens in weeks to come will already have their intellectual property in terms of domain names already registered. In fact they will have been safely done as far back as July. The TV Production company leave nothing to chance, ensuring that they are one step ahead of the cybersquatters.

Unfortunately, domain law today is, to coin a phrase from our US cousins, an ass. It does little to protect the real IP rights holders, yet creates an environment where someone acting in bad faith can profit. Let’s say that someone at the X-Factor had forgotten to register one of the finalist’s domain names. The moment his/her name is tearfully read out by one of the judges on Sunday night someone will press “buy” on that domain name. Their strategy is simple – profit. If the X-Factor want to get that name back (and assuming the registrant has not used the name in bad faith) then they have two options. The first is to take the legal route, issuing a Uniform Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP) case which they will ultimately win unless the domain name owner can prove he has a legal right to the domain name. Unfortunately, this process can take a couple of months (by which time the artist may have been voted off the show anyway) and cost a few thousand pounds. The second is to simply offer the domain name holder a fee to give the name back immediately. Either way, the X-Factor Production company loses.

Keeping one step ahead in protecting your future assets means forward thinking now. What will your brands be, which markets will you be present in, who are your new customers. Registering those domain names now that you will need in the future means you are protecting your critical online digital assets and stopping the big bad cybersquatter from flourishing. Now, back to the conversation about the Gents at the Rovers Return.

Written by Stuart Fuller, Director of Communications, NetNames
1 October 2012