Companies are often criticized on websites such as Yelp and Google. Consumers often have legitimate complaints, while other posts seem vindictive and off-mark. Yelp has been criticized for “forcing” companies to pay it advertising fees so that positive consumer comments are ranked higher than the negative – something Yelp denies.
Much has been written about how a company should respond to such negative comments, if at all. Some preach engaging consumers leaving negative feedback while others believe that such negative comments should be ignored. A third approach has been to make fun of the comments posted, such as certain restaurants and bars posting signs outside that say something to the effect of ‘come into the restaurant one Yelp user says has the worst sandwich of all time’.
Enter now a new generic top-level domain name authorized by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) – .SUCKS. Not a joke. The .SUCKS domain is apparently to allow dissatisfied consumers to express their frustrations by registering the name of a company with the .SUCKS domain. So if a consumer is unhappy with say Coca Cola, they would register COCACOLA.SUCKS. Or if Coca Cola already registered that domain name to prevent such registrations, the consumer would register COCACOLAREALLY.SUCKS.
As with all new top-leve domain names there was a sunrise period to allow the owners of legitimate trademarks to register, for a fee, their trademarks prior to them being open for registration to the general public. Whether the owners of well-known and famous marks are taking part in this process is not yet apparent (COCACOLA.SUCKS is currently available), but it could be a costly proposition. The registrar of the .SUCKS domain was charging $2,499 per year for sunrise registrations. As with the example above, even if a company was to register their trademark as a .SUCKS domain name, a disgruntled consumer could register a variation of that domain.
What a consumer could do with a .SUCKS domain name should make the owners of trademarks extremely wary. The website could become a sounding board for all perceived wrongs with the company and all perceived slights to the consumer by the company. A consumer could create a blog so that others with similar intentions could bash the company.
Given the parameters of the Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy, which allows the owners of trademarks to take away the domain names of those who register their marks, a company would have to show that the domain name registrant had no legitimate interest or rights in the domain. This seems like it would be hard to do when viewed in the context of free speech and fair criticism and that the domain needs to be registered in bad faith.
Over recent years, ICANN has been allowing the registration of numerous risque new top-level domain names, including .XXX. Whether all of these domains is a good idea, and whether consumers will use these domains, or just stick with .COM (COCACOLASUCKS.com), remains to be seen.