AdultBlock & AdultBlock+ are the new systems for brand protection in “adult” domain names extensions

Little flashback…

It all started in a long-ago world when what we now commonly call “newgTLDs” did not exist. It was a time when the Trademark Clearinghouse (“TMCH”) had not yet been created either, and when the launch of a new generic extension was a special event.

We’re talking about a time when the American government had direct control of ICANN, whose governance was less open and less internationalized. There were only 22 generic extensions then, and ICANN authorized only a few rare launches, such as .pro in 2004.

In 2005, ICANN received a request to create a .XXX extension. After initially rejecting the application in 2007, ICANN decided to accept it in 2011. SafeBrands, called Mailclub back then, was among the first registrars to obtain accreditation for .XXX domains at the time.

The .XXX extension was initially intended to allow the “adult industry” to benefit from a dedicated space, supposedly allowing for easier identification and filtering, and thus increasing the protection of young people on the internet. But “easier identification” also means easier blocking. Thus, some countries such as Iran stated that this extension would not cross its borders.

The TMCH did not exist at the time this extension was launched, but the concept of priority periods reserved for trademark owners (“Sunrise Periods”) was already in place.

One of the most frequent variants of cybersquatting being “pornsquatting,” the registry had planned for two priority registration options, which gave rise to a now well-known practice: domain name blocking. The .XXX domain name can thus be considered as the ancestor of Donut’s DPML and derived systems.

The .XXX Sunrise Period allowed:

  • “Adult” community members to register a domain name that can be used for their sites; and
  • Trademark owners from outside this industry to block their trademark as a domain name, for a much lower price than a traditional application, without attribution of ownership as several holders of the same trademark can request the same blocking. This blocking, named “Sunrise B,” has been adopted by a great number of companies for the protection of their brands.

The success of this blocking system was due to its price and efficiency: Sunrise B cost over 10 times less than a traditional registration, for domains that companies did not intend to use anyway. The registry, ICM, initially indicated that the protection provided by Sunrise B would be in effect for as long as it retained management, i.e. for a minimum of 10 years (the duration of its ICANN contract).

A few years later, ICM took advantage of the new domain names program to apply for and obtain the delegation of .SEX, .PORN and .ADULT, launched in 2015. These new extensions also benefited from a Sunrise Period, albeit one that is less attractive for companies than the .XXX Sunrise B.

Recently, ICM was acquired by Minds and Machines Group (“MMX”), a major player in new extensions. With .XXX changing hands, this merger’s direct result is that the initial Sunrise B protection will not extend beyond the minimum 10-year term announced in 2011. That’s the reason for the new AdultBlock and AdultBlock+ systems we’re introducing to you today.

1/ The features of AdultBlock and AdultBlock+

These new products are intended to block all four adult content extensions managed by ICM/MMX. When the Sunrise B blocking period ends, this new system will offer greater protection at a lower cost.

AdultBlock and AdultBlock+ share some features, but we believe AdultBlock+ is much more attractive.

a/ Shared features of AdultBlock and AdultBlock+

  • They cover all four .XXX, .SEX, .PORN and .ADULT extensions.
  • They include premium names. The product makes it possible to block not only all available domains, regardless of their price, but also, automatically, the names that become available again after the blocking has been implemented. No further action is required from the trademark holder.
  • Once a domain name is blocked by the AdultBlock or AdultBlock+ service, no other user can register the domain name during the protection period.

b/ AdultBlock+ adds several other levels of protection

  • While AdultBlock allows you to block your trademark identically, without any variant protection, AdultBlock+ blocks all the variants granted by ICM under Sunrise B and/or those granted by the TMCH.
  • AdultBlock+ includes equivalent IDN characters. To date, the AdultBlock+ service includes over 20 scripts: English, Belarusian, Bosnian, Bulgarian, Simplified and Traditional Chinese, Danish, French, German, Hungarian, Icelandic, Italian, Korean, Latvian, Lithuanian, Macedonian, Montenegrin, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Serbian, Spanish, Swedish, and Ukrainian.
  • AdultBlock+ also protects the brand’s homoglyphic variants. AdultBlock+’s homoglyphic coverage is provided via the registry connection to Uniregistry’s Uni EPS+, which includes this same functionality (previously offered by Donuts as part of its DPML). By taking advantage of the functionalities and benefits of an existing and reliable blocking provider, many brand owners will appreciate this feature.

That’s why the AdultBlock solution seems of limited interest given the important additional protection provided by AdultBlock+.

2/ Who is eligible for AdultBlock and AdultBlock+?

Trademark holders registered with the Trademark Clearinghouse (TMCH) as well as Sunrise B .XXX holders can subscribe to the AdultBlock or AdultBlock+ services.

3/ What will happen to Sunrise B?

ICM/MMX wishes to gradually replace Sunrise B with these two new services. For those who experienced the launch of .XXX, Sunrise B was only available for a short time—it can no longer be registered but remains renewable.

Ahead of the 10th anniversary in 2021, ICM/MMX is already announcing a rate increase for Sunrise B. The price is not yet settled, but we already know that it will be higher than that of either AdultBlock systems. There will also be a rights validation fee, as was initially the case upon registration. In other words, there will be absolutely no point in renewing a Sunrise B.

4/ Promotion of the launch of the new system

In order to encourage brand owners to subscribe to AdultBlock+ (a superior service), the registry has decided to launch a time-limited promotional campaign (valid until December 31, 2019).

What are the offer’s terms and conditions?

  • The promotion applies only to a 10-year AdultBlock+ service term: brand owners can benefit from AdultBlock+’s most comprehensive coverage for the price of the basic AdultBlock service.

Why sign up?

  • We know that the renewal price of Sunrise B will be higher than that of AdultBlock+ with a less comprehensive scope of protection.
  • The promotional price of AdultBlock+ is identical to that of AdultBlock until the end of the year, while offering a much higher level of protection.
  • Sunrise B covers only one extension and excludes homoglyph, IDN and premium name protection.
  • The .XXX domain name has been a great success and remains a high cybersquatting risk.
  • Since the registry made these programs available to trademark holders, it is very likely that non-priority registration of these adult domain names will benefit from low promotional rates, which may generate greater interest from cybersquatters and any other group wishing to infringe upon brands’ images.
  • All four domain names are likely to see their volume of active registrations increase due to the announcement of progressive domain name blocking.

Conclusion: what should trademark holders do at this stage?

Some domain name blocking systems may be more attractive than others, depending on the brand’s strategy. However, this particular one is undeniably appealing, if only in terms of cost for all Sunrise B owners, as well as for any brand wishing to limit the risk of infringement. Potential damage to your image from “adult” domain name extensions is greater than for other extensions.  

The registry’s AdultBlock+ promotional offer will give brand holders much broader protection than AdultBlock, but at the same price. The promotion is currently ongoing and ends in December. After analyzing the issues, risks and alternative solutions, we advise our clients to subscribe it.

Trademark holders should now catalog their Sunrise B blocks and TMCH registrations in order to identify the brands that may benefit from AdultBlock+, to replace current defensive registrations at a lower cost, or to protect their new trademarks. They must also evaluate the budgets needed by year-end to carry out the required blocking by taking advantage of the AdultBlock+ offer.

We will soon announce the date of a webinar during which we will answer all your questions live.

Would you like to know more or to benefit from the launch promotional price? SafeBrands is there for you as an ICM/MMX accredited registrar. Feel free to contact our account managers using our online form , by email at, or by phone at +33 (0)1 80 82 82 60 .