ICANN Asks US and Canadian Regulators to Consider if "Illicit" SUCKS Violates Laws

There has been widespread outrage from brand owners as to the business model of the .sucks gTLD with fears the gTLD will turn into a forum for registrants to ‘bash-a-brand’. And now following complaints from ICANN's Intellectual Property Constituency, ICANN has asked both the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and, because Vox Populi is a Canadian enterprise, Canada's Office of Consumer Affairs (OCA), to consider assessing and determining whether or not Vox Populi is violating any of the laws or regulations those agencies enforce.

ICANN is also evaluating remedies available to them under the registry agreement. Should Vox Populi not comply with all applicable laws, it may mean it is in breach of its registry agreement allowing ICANN to take action.

Greg Shatan, president of the IPC, whose letter on 27th March sparked ICANN’s outreach to the FTC and OCA, has a number of concerns. The IPC believes the issue needs to be considered urgently, particularly as the .sucks Sunrise period opened on 30th March and that Vox Populi will “charge trademark owners over $2,000 to register domain names in the TMCH Sunrise period. ... Vox Populi’s incredibly high fees will prevent many trademark owners from being able to take advantage of the TMCH Sunrise period.”

The “illicit scheme doesn’t stop there” though according to the IPC. “If a trademark owner decides that it will sit out the Sunrise Period and attempt to register its trademark as a domain name during general availability for around the $249 mark, it still may be forced to pay at least $2,000because Vox Populi will introduced a ‘Sunrise Premium’ list. (Despite the name, ‘Sunrise Premium’ pricing applies only during general availability.) If a trademark is on the Sunrise Premium list, it will always be at least $2,000 per year. The Sunrise Premium list is a list of strings compiled by Vox Populi from strings registered or blocked in other TLDs’ sunrise periods.” However, at the current moment, this list will only be made available AFTER the trademark sunrise period closes on 29th May.

According to the IPC, “Vox Populi’s strategy is obvious–to ensure that those trademark owners who have invested in protecting those trademarks by registering in the TMCH and registering domain names in other sunrise periods, and who are most likely to want to protect their trademarks by registering in .SUCKS, cannot avoid paying at least $2,000 per year, no matter when they register.”