Safeguarding Your Brand: Why Sen. Cruz should Take his Cue from Taylor Swift and Buy TedCruz.Porn

Everyone’s favorite season is finally here. No, not baseball season, Election Season! On Monday, March 23, 2015, Republican hopeful Ted Cruz announced that he would be running for POTUS, the first declared candidate of the season. The staunchly conservative Tea Party darling, Senator Cruz’s official website is TedCruz.org. Yes, <.org> because someone else already owns TedCruz.com.

TedCruz.com is a simple site, with a simple message:

SUPPORT PRESIDENT OBAMA.

IMMIGRATION REFORM NOW!

It is unlikely that Senator Cruz (R-TX) would approve this message.

Because Sen. Cruz did not obtain this domain name earlier, he left himself vulnerable to cybersquatters (although it is possible, but unlikely, that a different Ted Cruz purchased this domain to give his views). Unfortunately for the Senator, he seems to be a troll magnet: tedcruzforamerica.com redirects to HealthCare.gov, TedCruz.ca emphasizes that U.S. Senator Ted Cruz was born in Canada (possibly to draw the ire of individuals involved in the Obama birther movement), and TedCruz.Tumblr.com is critical, to say the least.

Forms of Resolution that Don’t Merely “Shake it Off”

If the Senator wants to try to stop this trolling, he has several options. He could sue under the Anti-Cybersquatting Consumer Protection Act (ACPA), which creates a cause of action against anyone who, with bad faith intent to profit from a mark or personal name, registers or uses a domain name that is identical or confusingly similar to a distinctive trademark. The ACPA allows for the forfeiture, cancellation, or transfer of the domain name and provides for statutory damages. But going to court can take ages and be expensive.

Another option would be to file a Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP) Complaint. This online-only arbitration proceeding would last a few months at most and be completed for a standard filing fee. This proceeding allows for cancellation or transfer of the domain if Sen. Cruz can show (1) the domain is identical or confusingly similar to a trademark in which he has rights; (2) the registrant does not have any rights or legitimate interests in the domain name; and (3) the domain name was registered and used in “bad faith.” Unfortunately, the UDRP regulations only protect trademark rights, so the Senator would have to prove that his name functions as a trademark in the eyes of the general public, a task that can be quite difficult without a federal registration.

If the Senator is especially savvy, he could register a trademark and file it with the Trademark Clearinghouse (TMCH). This way, when someone tries to register a new gTLD using “TedCruz” (e.g., TedCruz.ANYTHING,) the TMCH will (1) send the registrant a warning that they’re using a protected mark, and (2) Sen. Cruz will be notified when the application is made. The TMCH is a remarkably effective method for stopping trolls before they start, with a 99% success rate for its claims notices.

If any trolls persist and register a domain with one of ICANN’s new gTLDs, then the Senator could file a Uniform Rapid Suspension System (URS) Complaint. This online arbitration method is similar to the UDRP but differs in the following ways, among others: (1) it can only be used with new gTLDs; (2) the only remedy is suspension of the domain; and (3) the whole process is much quicker and should take under a month.

Lastly, the Senator could try to negotiate a settlement. However, due to the nature of cybersquatters, this method is unlikely to be successful unless he is willing to pay an exorbitant amount for the domain.

Any way you cut it, Sen. Cruz would have to spend some funds he may not have planned to and wait on a decision.

How can other candidates, companies, and celebrities avoid similar annoyances?

Preemptive Strikes that Never Go Out of “Style”

By preemptively registering domains with your marks, of course! The internet is expanding, and with ICANN’s new gTLDs rolling out, there is a lot of opportunity for abuse outside of <.com> and <.net>. A good example of savvy registering is Taylor Swift, who recently purchased TaylorSwift.porn and TaylorSwift.adult for the express purpose of ensuring no one else could. Defensive registration doesn’t have to be domains with negative connotations either, .GOP, .REPUBLICAN, and .VOTE are all strings that could work in the Senator’s favor.

Either way, perhaps Sen. Cruz should move quickly, .SUCKS and .FAIL are still up for grabs, and this author shudders to imagine what a troll would do with TedCruz.porn.

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