.COFFEE, like so many other intuitive generic top-level domains (gTLDs), has the potential for opportunities and growth for any brand, business, or organization affiliated with coffee. Registering in this gTLD can give registrants a fun and memorable domain name to advertise their websites and products.
But with open, generic gTLDs, there is also opportunity for cybersquatting, and a cursory review of the registrations in .COFFEE showed trouble brewing. Many well-known brands – Starbucks, Nescafe, Illy, and Caribou among them – were on their game, having registered their brand names in .COFFEE. Many other well-known companies, however, have fallen victim to cybersquatting. And still other brands appear to be asleep at the switch.
A researched sampling of the most likely domain names for the top 100 coffee brands, where several brands had more than one domain name examined, showed that of 104 registrations, only 25 percent were legitimately purchased by the company that owns the trademark. More than twice that number – 54 percent – are being cybersquatted. Another 14 percent of brand names are still available for registration, and 7 percent have been reserved.
In several cases, Seattles Best, Folgers, Maxwell House, and Tim Hortons, for example, were registered in .COFFEE by somebody other than the brand holder. Meanwhile, neither Juan Valdez Café, Sanka, or Jittery Joe’s coffee have registered their brands, even though they are available. Brands can protect themselves against cybersquatting in a variety of ways. Illy, for example, planned ahead and took advantage of a Donuts offer called the Domains Protected Marks List (DPML), which blocks registration of the “ILLY” mark in all of Donuts’ hundreds of new gTLDs, .COFFEE included.
For after the fact protection, the Uniform Rapid Suspension System (URS) offers faster and cheaper relief against the most obvious cases of cybersquatting, but the domain in question first must expire before the trademark owner can obtain it. The Uniform Domain-Name Dispute-Resolution Policy (UDRP), which involves presenting evidence before an arbitration panel, may be more expensive and take more time but the successful brand owners can assume possession of the domain immediately.
Brand owners need to know what tools in the cybersquatting toolkit are available as businesses continue to look for ways to protect their trademarks, reputations, and economic value.