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Expansion of Web upsets businesses

– Harvard paid as much as $299 to register the last time the World Wide Web’s global overseer added a domain name to familiar ones including .com and .net. Rather than seeking a new opportunity, it signed up to keep harvard.xxx from being used as a porn site.

As the Internet’s first major expansion since 2004 adds suffixes including .fail and .sex to the existing 22 names to the right of the dot, brand owners such as Coca-Cola and Ford may be similarly forced to pay up to prevent cybersquatting on a massive scale, said Daniel Jaffe, executive vice president of the Association of National Advertisers, a trade group whose members wield 10,000 brands.

“The pressure to defensively register is tremendous,” Jaffe said in an interview. “We have major, major trademark concerns.”

Each new suffix creates millions of possible addresses to be sold by registries. There are 106 million variations in .com alone, according to Verisign Inc., the Reston, Va.-based global registry for .com and other domains.

Los Angeles-based Icann as of April 5 had cleared 93 new names, mainly in non-Roman script such as Chinese or Arabic.

Icann, which is charging $185,000 for rights to a new right-of-the-dot name, is expanding the Web over qualms from the Federal Trade Commission and brand-name companies including Coca-Cola, Ford, Procter & Gamble, General Electric and Johnson & Johnson.

Although Congress passed a law in 1999 barring cybersquatting – the speculating in Web addresses of companies or brands with the intent to sell those for a profit – not all nations followed and companies have waged costly battles.

Harvard was among “10 or 20” universities paying to protect their academic brands after .xxx was added in 2011, at a cost of $162 and $299 for each address, so they couldn’t be used as online destinations for sexually explicit material, Stuart Lawley, chief executive officer of ICM Registry Ltd. that sells .xxx Web addresses, said in an interview.

Risk-averse companies may defensively register in some but not necessarily all new domains, Josh Bourne, a managing partner at FairWinds Partners LLC, an advisory group in Washington on domain-name strategy, said in an interview.

“If you’re IBM there’s a pretty clear business reason to register imb.tech, ibm.careers, ibm.eco or ibm.blog,” he said.

“There’s scant returns from registering ibm.tattoo or ibm.ninja.”

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