Earlier this week, news broke that pop singer Taylor Swift had purchased the domain names TaylorSwift.porn and TaylorSwift.adult.
The purchase, however, had nothing to do with her considering a change of career but with two closely related factors. Back in 2011, ICANN, the internet’s gatekeeper in charge of top-level domains, decided to expand the number of generic top-level domains (e.g. .com and .net) and allow companies and individuals to apply for new top-level domains. Thus far 548 new gTLDs have been accepted; among them the soon-to-be introduced suffixes .porn and .adult.
This wouldn’t be a problem, if it weren’t for a phenomenon called cybersquatting that has arisen over the past few years. Cybersquatting, also know as domain squatting, describes the act of registering and/or using a popular internet address, often including a brand’s or a company’s name, with the intent of selling it to the respective company / brand name owner. Taylor Swift’s decision to purchase these domain names can be seen as a pre-emptive strike against such squatters who could otherwise have tried to make profit using or selling these suggestive web addresses.
While companies have become more aware of the problem in recent years and subsequently started securing domain names including their trademarks themselves, cybersquatters continue to gobble up domain names at unrelenting pace. When a company finds out that its trademarks are unrightfully used in a domain name, it can file a complaint with the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), which has the authority to transfer domain names to its rightful owners. Since 1999, more than 30,000 cybersquatting complaints were filed with the WIPO, many of them concerning multiple domain names. In 2014 alone, trademark owners lodged 2,634 cases concerning 5,591 domain names. U.S. tobacco company Philip Morris heads the of list case filers, lamenting the illegitimate use of domains such as marlborocigarettessale.com or marlborocannabis.com.
This chart shows which companies filed the most complaints about illegitimate use of their trademarks in domain names in 2014.
You will find more statistics at Statista