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HuffPo .XXX squatter turfed out in crackdown

Dozens of domains seized from smut site opportunists

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ICM Registry has suspended scores of .xxx domain names it says were registered by cyber-squatters in a large-scale trademark infringement scam.

Domains such as washingtonpost.xxx, verizonwireless.xxx and businessweek.xxx were among more than 70 seized under the unprecedented crackdown yesterday.

ICM CEO Stuart Lawley told The Register that the infringements were "clear and wilful and widespread". The individuals who registered the domains had already tried to sell them to the owners of the respective trademarks, he said.

One opportunist, who registered huffingtonpost.xxx with a plan to sell it on to the highest bidder, forfeited about 50 domains, according to Lawley. It would have cost the registrant approximately $5,000 to snap up these web addresses when the .xxx space opened up last week.

"We will not tolerate nefarious conduct and will exercise our right to take appropriate action when we detect widespread repeat patterns of cyber-squatting activity," Lawley said in a statement. "Would-be cyber-squatters are on notice – neither ICM Registry nor the .xxx community will be complicit in the theft or abuse of intellectual property."

The suspensions come shortly after ICM raked in millions selling almost 80,000 defensive brand registrations, at about $160 a pop, to companies both inside and outside the porn business.

It's unheard of for a registry operator to unilaterally suspend domain names in its zone based on third-party trademark infringement claims.

Domains are regularly seized in .com and other suffixes if they are being used to distribute malware, such as Conficker, but allegations of cyber-squatting usually have to be decided under ICANN's Uniform Dispute Resolution Policy.

UDRP cases are heard by arbitrators hired by the World Intellectual Property Organisation and other groups. They incur legal fees and take several weeks to resolve. If a trademark holder wins, they are awarded the domain.

However, while .xxx is also covered by the UDRP, ICM also has a fairly Draconian secondary policy when it comes to obvious cyber-squatters. Not only do they lose their cyber-squatted domains, but they lose every domain they own in .xxx.

This is possible because, unlike in .com and other top-level domains, ICM verifies the identity of .xxx registrants and makes them sign up to a registry-registrant agreement.

Lawley said that a minority of the domains suspended yesterday may not actually infringe trademarks. The company has not yet decided whether to freeze the domains permanently or release them back into the available pool.

However, one of the domains in question, huffingtonpost.xxx, appears to have already been transferred to the Huffington Post, according to Whois records.

While ICM's move may put a smile on the faces of some in the intellectual property community, the unilateral nature of the suspensions is causing disquiet amongst legal domain name speculators.

Lawley said that "single complaints over single names, we won't act on as a registry" but that due to the cybersquatting pattern exhibited by chancres and others "to have not done anything would have been us in dereliction of our duty". ®

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